The session will cover issues including redistricting of the Georgia House and Senate and Congressional districts, technical changes to next year's TSPLOST referendum and ratifying the governor's gas tax rate freeze.
As part of our agenda, we will look closely at changing the date of regional transportation referendums to be put before voters next year.
If approved, these referendums would add a one cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects.
As of now these votes are slated for the primary ballot on July 31, of next year, but we consider moving the referendum to the Nov. 6th, 2012 general election.
One of the primary reasons this change would be a beneficial move is that voter turnout is typically larger during the general election which would mean more citizens' voices being heard.
As required by law, the General Assembly must ratify or reject Governor Deal's Executive Order dated June 23, 2011 suspending any increase in motor fuel tax until Jan. 1, 2012. With our economy teetering toward monumental instability, it is vital that lawmakers take opportunities such as this to provide tax relief to our hardworking citizens.
But the major focus of this Special Session remains Redistricting and Reapportionment.
Since the General Assembly is required to undertake this process every 10 years, I want to explain and clarify the redistricting process and hopefully answer some of your questions about this often confusing subject.
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 consist of 56 districts.
Georgia's official 2010 population is more than 9.6 million residents. Dividing our state's total population by the 56 available seats means the average size of a new Senate district will now be 172,994 people, an increase of 26,807 per district.
Districts with populations that grew more or less will be evened out through the reapportionment process.
During this Special Session, the separate chambers of the General Assembly will first draft and vote on their own maps before referring to the other chamber for a concurring vote. It is vital for all Georgia communities to understand and participate in the process because it will affect each of you.
Last week the Chairman of the Redistricting and Reapportionment Committee introduced a proposed map for the Senate, which would change the makeup of the 31st district. The proposed map indicates that I would no longer represent Bartow County due to the exceptional growth of the 31st district over last 10 years. The proposed map also adds a few Paulding County precincts to the 31st district in order to minimize the number of counties split among Senate districts.
On the federal level, Georgia's explosive growth over the last 10 years has earned our state an additional congressional seat, raising our total allocation to 14 seats. Georgia is considered a fast-growing "sunshine belt" state because of our growth in population. At the same time, populations in "rustbelt" states (such as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) are considered stable or in decline and will lose seats in Congress during congressional reapportionment.
Congressional reapportionment is handled in the Georgia legislature, similar to any other type of legislation. The House and Senate may pass their own versions of a plan. Then, a legislative body may accept the other's version of the map or a conference committee may be formed to hammer out the differences between the two versions. The 13 current U.S. Congressmen, their constituents, and those who might be vying for a new seat will undoubtedly make their voices heard during the process.
Georgia is one of nine states remaining under the Voting Rights Act which must receive federal approval of its redistricting plans. Therefore, after the General Assembly passes new maps and the Governor signs off on those plans, they will be submitted for preclearance by the federal district court in Washington, DC or by the Department of Justice.
I want to make sure that you know my door is open if you have questions or concerns about redistricting.
My goal has always been to be an effective voice for you in the Georgia Senate. It is a very personal process for everyone involved as legislators and constituents alike. It has certainly been a pleasure to represent a portion of Bartow County. I have always found the folks of Bartow County to love freedom and liberty and I have always been treated like family there. Of course, having always represented parts of Paulding County, I have enjoyed many great relationships there as well. As always, I will work hard to continue to protect your ideals and to represent the needs of my district. Let me hear from you.