Senate Reapportionment Chairman Mitch Seabaugh told reporters this morning that a Republican map that would put Fulton County legislation under GOP control was an “innocent byproduct” of his effort to satisfy the demands of his Democratic and Republican colleagues.
Seabaugh made his remarks after Democrats in the Senate loudly complained of unfair treatment, but before his committee met to consider a new version of the chamber’s political boundaries – designed to give Republicans a constitutional majority after the 2012 elections. The map is expected to be passed out, for a floor vote as early as Thursday.
In addition to giving the GOP a decent chance at building a two-thirds majority, the map could also give Republicans control of the Fulton County delegation by adding portions of four Republican-leaning districts inside county lines.
As a rule, legislation affecting individual counties must pass through local delegations before reaching either chamber. In the case of Fulton, that could include some very hot issues – such as the reach of county government in a territory filled with new cities, and the creation of a new Milton County from north Fulton.
Currently, the Fulton County Senate delegation is dominated 4-3 by Democrats. The new map could change that to a 7-4 Republican edge.
Seabaugh said this was not intentional.
The Sharpsburg lawmaker said his own Coweta County district expanded into south Fulton after consultation with his Democratic colleague, Donzella James. “Her district was overpopulated and when I sat down and spoke with her, she identified a certain area of population that she was willing to give up,” Seabaugh said. The city of Chattahoochee Hills is now in his district.
(James denies this account. And in the subsequent committee meeting, declared Seabaugh’s version “a lie” — later revising her assessment to “an untruth.”)
In any case, Seabaugh told reporters, county legislative delegations aren’t a matter for those concerned with voting rights. “Delegations – they are an advisory position. Legislation comes, and basically they sign off on it. This does not in any way [result in] disenfranchisement of the members of that county and who they vote for,” he said.
Further, Seabaugh said that not all Republicans are in favor of the creation of Milton County.
The man in charge of reapportionment in the Senate also took issue with Democratic charges that they had been snookered out of offering amendments to the map.
Senate Democratic Leader Steve Henson of Tucker said Seabaugh told him late Monday that no Democratic changes had been offered as of 11 a.m. – 24 hours before today’s 11 a.m. meeting — and thus would not be considered.
Henson said the rule was a result of new rules adopted by the Senate to speed the redistricting process – at 10:51 a.m.
Seabaugh went to the well to note that the 24-hour rule was adopted by his committee last April – and that Henson, in a June letter, had acknowledge the rule’s existence. “I’m sorry. If you can’t read the rules, won’t read the rules, or won’t obey the rules, I am going to follow the rules,” Seabaugh said.
Henson later said that Seabaugh was “technically” correct. But he also said that, until the Senate changed the rules on Monday morning, the reapportionment committee couldn’t have scheduled a meeting so early. “If they hadn’t changed the rules, we couldn’t have had that meeting until Wednesday. They passed those rule changes at 10:51 a.m. on Monday. We had until 11 o’ clock to get our amendments. They gave us a nine-minute chance,” Henson said.
Update: On the drive home, Seabaugh called to say that Henson was still mistaken in his understanding of Senate rules, and that his reapportionment committee could still meet Tuesday without the Senate chamber rule change.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider