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Don't look now, sky is falling

Legislative update

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POSTED: November 24, 2010 9:29 a.m.

Question: What two things do Athens, Atlanta, Carrollton, Commerce, Gainesville, Hull, Rome and Winterville have in common?
Answer: They are the home of the recent winners of statewide offices in the state of Georgia, and they are all located in north Georgia.
Question: What two things do Gainesville and Blue Ridge have in common?
Answer: They are the home of Gov.-elect Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, the three highest ranking elected officials in Georgia, and they are both located in north Georgia.
So what’s the point? While this may be the first time in our state’s history that all statewide candidates are from a certain region of our state, certainly it’s not the first time that the top three positions have been from the same region.
Does it really matter what part of the state they’re from? Knowing all three men as I do, I can attest that they are all sincere, fair and genuinely concerned with our state as a whole. But it does, at the very least, represent a shift in power in our state as well as a shift in population.
During the coming legislative session, one of the main responsibilities of the general assembly will be to draw new lines for state house and senate districts as well as Congressional seats.
This process, called reapportionment, is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to be done every 10 years after a nationwide census is completed to ensure fair and equal representation in the state legislatures and Congress. The population count is used to apportion the number of seats in Congress among the states, as well as to provide the state and local governments with the population counts necessary to redraw their legislative districts.
While each state is guaranteed two senators in the 100-member body U. S. Senate, each state is guaranteed only one representative in the 435-member body U.S. House of Representatives. That means that the remaining 385 seats are apportioned among the states based on population.
If Georgia’s numbers show up as expected, we will have around 10.5 million to 11 million residents – almost doubling the state’s population since the 1980 Census. Where has most of this population growth been located? You guessed it – north Georgia.
While the official 2010 Census results won’t be released to the states until Jan. 1, preliminary reports suggest that Georgia will pick up an extra Congressional seat, putting us at 14 total. Each district is expected to have about 703,000 people.
Where will the new congressional seat be located? You guessed it – north Georgia.
And what will this population shift mean to the state legislature during reapportionment? If our population tops out near 11 million residents, then each of our state senators will represent around 200,000 people and each state House member will cover about 61,000 people.
In order to keep the constitutional numbers of 56 state senators and 180 House members, this means that districts will have to contract in size and increase in number of residents.
Where will the new Senate and House districts be located? You guessed it – north Georgia.
In fact, some are expecting south Georgia to lose up to two state Senate seats and between six to eight state House seats, resulting in a decrease of south Georgia’s representation under the Gold Dome.
While we as politicians downplay geographical boundaries, preferring to think of our state as one Georgia, the fact still remains that some issues are regional in nature. Perhaps no greater example can be found than that of water. As north Georgia and the metro Atlanta region grapple with water supply issues, will south Georgia’s lack of representation at the state level result in our giving up water rights?
Will our state’s economic development efforts be focused in north Georgia resulting in south Georgia being neglected?
Will federal transportation dollars be concentrated in north Georgia as a result of more Congressional influence?
While the sky is certainly not falling and there may not be reasons to be concerned yet, Georgians south of the gnat line should be aware that changes are on the way.

Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building Room 302-B, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.

 

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