Political Notes: October 2011
ups, downs and in-betweens
Winners Take All: Once the dust cleared after the General Assembly’s special session to consider redistricting, Republicans were happy, Demo-crats were not.
Democrats complained they were effectively shut out of the reapportionment process and that the resulting maps target incumbents on the basis of race and fail to meet requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Republicans say they are just doing to the Dems what was done to them 10 years ago. But the rancor is likely to linger.
Both House and Senate Democrats in the General Assembly voted unanimously against the Republican-created reapportionment maps. (The vote was 107-65 in the House and 35-18 in the Senate.)
“For the map creators to say that Democrats had input into this process is simply hypocritical,” said Sen. Steve Henson of DeKalb, leader of the Senate Democratic caucus. “A little dialogue would have gone a long way in the process and may have avoided the retrogression we see now in these maps,” he said in a press release.
Many Democrats believe the maps will not pass muster with the federal Department of Justice, which must review them – as provided by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A court challenge is likely.
Congressional Districts: The redrawing of the state’s congressional districts to accommodate a new 14th Congressional District also left a few noses out of joint – and a few incumbents out of luck. Take Twelfth District Congressman John Barrow, a Demo-crat from Savannah; he’ll have to move if he wants to run for re-election since Savannah is no longer in his district. He’s probably used to it – a previous redistricting caused him to move from Athens to Savannah. Barrow is part of a rapidly vanishing breed: He is the only white Democrat representing a Deep South state in Congress.
Longtime Democratic Congressman John Lewis loses the Buckhead (presumably more conservative) chunk of his Fifth District.
TSPLOST Date: Nor could lawmakers manage to agree during the special session on legislation to change the date of the statewide transportation referendum from July to November. Neither the Democrats nor the Tea Party Republicans were in a mood to give the moderate Republicans a victory on this one. Dems were mad about the redistricting maps, and conservative Republicans were not anxious to do anything that might help the transportation measure pass. It is likely this will be revisited during the 2012 regular session.
Gas Tax Rate Freeze: The special legislative session did see ratification of Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to freeze the gas rate tax, in recognition of the tough economy and persistently high gas prices.
Penny Push: The powerful Georgia Chamber of Commerce is throwing its muscle and some money behind the 2012 statewide TSPLOST that would mean billons of dollars for transportation and transit improvements – if voters agree to tax themselves another penny.
The chamber has hired a group of six political heavy hitters, strategists and pollsters – some with ties to Demo-crats, some with Republican resumés – to make the case to voters that the penny tax is not just a good idea but a necessity for Georgia’s future.
New Board Chair: First Lady Sandra Deal will take on the job of chair of the advisory board for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, which was founded in 2008 to make Georgia a place where children and families are educated, healthy and safe. The new executive director of the office is Katie Jo Ballard, formerly the governor’s director of constituent services. She replaces Jen Bennecke.
Tag, You’re It: Second time was the charm for selecting the state’s new license plate design. A super-colorful design showing ripe peaches and peach blossoms was selected by online voters in the second round of balloting, after the first was hopelessly confused by the inclusion of the “In God We Trust” line on some of the choices. (Auto owners can add that line for an extra charge.) Linda Sosebee from Forsyth produced the winning design.
Back To The Classroom: Augusta State University President William A. Bloodworth Jr. is retiring at the end of the current academic year to return to teaching. He will become a professor of English and American Studies. Bloodworth came to ASU in 1993 and oversaw the school’s transition from college to university.
Ethics Commission Appointment: Camilla attorney B. Chan Caudell is the newest member of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, re-placing Josh Belinfante. Caudell is vice chair of Common Cause Georgia.