None of the areas three senators were happy with an early revision of Georgia state Senate districts.
They ought to be thrilled now.
A Senate committee passed the new maps last week. The full Senate will undoubtedly approve the plan later. Then its going to be up to the House, says state Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling. And itll be leverage on anything they want.
Heres what he means by that. The Senate and the governors office are controlled by Republicans. The House is controlled by Democrats. If either side wants things passed, they have to seek the other partys approval.
Thats a new thing. Until last year, Democrats controlled all three, and barely even hit the brakes before running over Republican speed bumps. Now, the only way legislative Democrats can get anything done is to cooperate - a new word in their vocabulary.
In past years - under single-party rule, mind you - the House and Senate had a cozy deal in which each would rubber-stamp the other bodys district maps. Now without a majority, Democrats will put up roadblocks to the Senates remap.
But Brush contends that if the House Democrats try to block Senate redistricting - instead of just signing off on it as tradition dictates - the GOP Senate and governor will block any initiatives the Democrats want passed.
It could be a high-stakes game of chicken, obstruction vs. obstruction.
In the meantime, the newest version of the map is far better for our area than the last one proposed. Columbia County is still split between Brushs 24th District and Republican state Sen. Don Cheeks 23rd. Whereas the former map gave Cheeks a strip along the Richmond County line and all of Columbia County south of Interstate 20, the new map just gives him a densely-populated section along the county line. Brush keeps all the rest.
Brush is moved out of McDuffie and Warren counties, instead of splitting them with Cheeks. The new map puts Putnam, Greene, Tali-ferro and part of Morgan County in the 24th, along with Wilkes, Lincoln, Oglethorpe and Elbert counties.
In addition to the sliver of Columbia County, Cheeks 23rd gets all of McDuffie, Warren and Glascock counties, part of Jefferson County, the western edge of Richmond County and all of Burke County.
In the middle of those two districts is Republican state Sen. Randy Halls 22nd. Under the former first new map - which pushed Halls black population from 50 percent to 56 percent - Hall would have lost Hephzibah and Blythe, and been pushed into Burke.
The new map returns the 22nd to its current boundaries. We went back to my existing district, Hall says. I always thought they should have left my district alone - even if it means his former rival, Charles Walker, is back in the 22nd. (Under the last proposal, Walkers home was drawn into Cheeks district.)
So, what happens now? Hall says the map will pass the Senate and then go on the shelf until the end of the session nears, when Repub-licans will use it as a bargaining chip in last-minute negotiations with House Democrats.
By the way: Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor claims he hasnt looked at the new map. I dont consider this a kitchen-table issue the people of Georgia are talking about, he says.
Maybe we arent. But remember: The existing, rambing Senate districts were drawn by Democrats in an attempt to preserve their majority, but voters and party-switchers instead handed an unprecedented victory to Republicans.
The people of Georgia may not have been discussing it over the kitchen table, but they certainly spoke at the voting booth.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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