Key step toward statehood -- a constitution

Although the first syllable of the proposed state constitution for D.C. is yet to be written, speculation abounds as to its content.

''We are aiming for something which will reflect the needs of the people,'' says convention president Charles Cassell. The Washington, D.C., native says the delegates, who are divided into 10 standing committees each responsible for shaping a portion of the document, represent a ''good cross section'' of the city's population.

Besides smaller sessions, a joint meeting of all delegates is being held weekly. ''Our target is to have everything wrapped up a week ahead of our May 19 deadline,'' he explains.

To assist in the project, the convention has copies of the constitutions of all 50 states.

Among key decisions to be made are whether to propose a two-house (bicameral) legislature, or go for a single (unicameral) body similar to Nebraska's.

The proposed constitution, once ratified by D.C. voters, in effect would become a petition to Congress for statehood.

Mr. Cassell, director of the Office of Development Facilities at the University of the District of Columbia, is a former Washington school board member. His 44 elected fellow-delegates include two members of the city council and one school board member.

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