Georgia Special Session legislative wrap-up

Matt Ramsey's picture

The Georgia General Assembly concluded the 2011 Special Session last week, completing the most transparent and inclusive redrawing of Georgia’s political boundaries in modern history. This session was also the shortest special session in Georgia’s history. The work of crafting House, Senate and Congressional maps was completed in half the time it took a decade ago, saving taxpayers considerable money.

The General Assembly ratified Governor Deal’s order and passed a $40 million gas tax cut to help Georgia motorists. During the first half of 2011, gas prices spiked dramatically, spurring the governor to issue an executive order in June of 2011 suspending the collection of a portion of state taxes on sales of motor fuels and aviation gasoline.

In order for the executive order to be extended it was necessary that members of the House and Senate approve the executive order during the 2011 Special Session. The tax increase would have been due to a biannual adjustment to the state’s motor fuel tax.

Had the governor not issued his executive order to prevent an increase, the sales tax portion of the gas tax would have increased again on July 1 (the normal biannual recalculation date) all the way up to 14.5 cents per gallon. The legislation passed keeps the sales tax at the 12.9 cent rate or what will be slightly less than 4 percent.

But the major focus of this Special Session was redistricting and reapportionment. The General Assembly is required to undertake this process every 10 years, following each decennial census. State legislatures must use that information to remap districts to reflect population changes and shifts.

Likewise, Georgia’s Constitution dictates that our state Senate consists of 56 districts and the state House of Representatives consists of 180 districts. Georgia’s official 2010 population is more than 9.6 million residents. Districts with populations that grew more or lost citizens were evened out through the reapportionment process.

Perhaps the most prevalent factor driving the reapportionment process, other than the population, is the Voting Rights Act. Georgia is one of a small handful of states that still must get federal approval of its redistricting maps.

Every map that is submitted must comply with the complex and myriad legal requirements that are intended to insure minority voting strength is not diluted. If we fail to comply with these legal requirements, then the Justice Department will reject our maps and a federal judge will draw the lines, which is certainly not a desirable outcome.

On the federal level, Georgia’s explosive growth over the last 10 years earned our state an additional congressional seat, raising our total allocation to 14. The new congressional district affected the current congressional districts throughout Georgia.

When the proposed congressional maps were first introduced, Fayette County was split between the 3rd and the 13th. Senator Ronnie Chance and I worked tirelessly during session to make Fayette whole under one congressional district. When we began, 35 percent of Fayette County was in [Democrat] Congressman David Scott’s district; that number has now been reduced to 15 percent.

When the 2010 Census data came in the 72nd House District was very close to the necessary size; however, shifting population in adjacent areas and the Voting Rights Act necessitated a slight shift in the district I currently represent.

The changes included picking up two precincts in Coweta County and moving into the southern portion of Fayette County, while continuing to represent almost all of Peachtree City.

Like all districts in the state, the lines had to move with the population. But, at the end of the day, these new districts are merely lines on a map. My goal has always been to be an effective voice for you in the Georgia House of Representatives.

As always, I will work hard to continue to protect your ideals and to represent the needs of our community. Let me know how I can continue to be of service.

[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is matt.ramsey@house.ga.gov.]

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