Although the Georgia House passed a map weeks ago designed by Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) and Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), the state Senate decided to sit on it until the last day of the legislative session before taking action. As a result, rather than the Republican majority having the luxury of drawing the new boundary lines for the commission districts, the map will likely be drawn in a federal court to reflect new Census numbers.
“I’m obviously disappointed that they didn’t get it done because it’s going to create so much more havoc for the citizens of Cobb County as we approach the election of two important district seats,” Lee said.
The districts Lee referenced are held by Woody Thompson and Bob Ott, who are up for re-election on July 31.
Lee said he didn’t know what caused the General Assembly to fail in its task, “But it certainly puts us in a tighter prediction in getting ready for the elections … the voters of Cobb are a little bit put at a disadvantage that they won’t have a greater opportunity to consider candidates for the two districts, because it won’t be clear until the last minute,” Lee said.
“Right now we have an unconstitutional map based on the Census, so the courts and the legislators didn’t take it up appropriately, so I believe the next steps is to go to the courts.”
Several lawmakers believe Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) was responsible for the failure. Their reasoning is that Rogers needed a few Democrats to vote in favor of his charter school constitutional amendment, a proposal the Democrats opposed.
And Sen. Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) broke ranks with his party and voted for the charter school amendment. The lawmakers allege that Rogers promised Thompson that were he to vote for the charter amendment, Rogers would see to it that the county commission district represented by Thompson’s brother, Woody Thompson, a Democrat, wasn’t carved up.
Rogers could not be reached for comment for this article.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) said the irony is that after this year Rogers will no longer represent any part of Cobb, “and won’t have to deal with the problem.”
“I believe apparently a change in the commissioner map was used to win Sen. Steve Thompson’s vote on the charter bill legislation and then the commissioner map became a political football over in the Senate,” Cooper said. “Somehow Sen. Rogers lost control of the ball and Reps. Ehrhart and Setzler couldn’t fix it in the House, so we ended up with no commissioner’s map, which means we have a massive mess on our hands.”
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-south Cobb) pointed out that while Cobb lawmakers were responsible for the map failure, it was the county commission which would have to foot the bill on any legal fees.
“When the county can’t open libraries on Sunday, this is another cost the county will have to occur,” Wilkerson said. “Maybe they can take up a collection from the delegation and see if they want to cover the legal costs.”
State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) said the fumble could have been avoided if the delegation had listened to the county commission and the map it had advised the delegation to adopt.
“The way I see it, it has been the leadership of the delegation in the House (Setzler) who has made it very clear that he had no interest in paying attention to what the final recommendation of what the board itself wanted,” Stoner said, adding, “You’d have to talk to Sen. Thompson and Sen. Rogers as to why the Senate took its time in coming back with an alternative map.”
While the delegation struck out in adopting a commission map, it did approve one for the Cobb School District.
Setzler said one of the factors in drawing a new school board map was the growth in northwest Cobb.
“So to maintain seven equal districts, the east Cobb districts had to grow geographically to take up the population needed to be balanced with the west Cobb districts so Post 5, currently David Banks’ post, had to move south into more Walton and some Wheeler (high school attendance zones) and Post 6 (held by Scott Sweeney) had to move west into more Campbell (high school attendance zone), and Post 7 (held by Alison Bartlett) had to move shift north into more Harrison,” Setzler said.