ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Brian Kemp is calling Georgia lawmakers back to the Capitol on Nov. 3 to redraw congressional and legislative districts, he announced Thursday.
Legislators are already busy drawing new lines, with majority Republicans looking to increase the number of congressional seats that their party holds, while preserving control of the state House and Senate.
Kemp in July had pledged to make anti-crime bills a part of the special session, but did not include any in the call. Spokesperson Katie Byrd said Kemp would instead focus on crime during the 2022 regular session. House Republican leaders had indicated they didn't want crime on the redistricting session agenda. Other substantive bills might be used for leverage in what is one of the General Assembly's most personal and partisan duties.
“Our office is currently working on a robust public safety package to accomplish that goal," Byrd said. “The Georgia House and Senate are also currently conducting fact-finding public safety hearings, and will continue to do so through the end of this calendar year.”
Activists have clamored for lawmakers to release draft maps far enough in advance of the session for meaningful public comment, but Republican leaders have indicated that's unlikely. Some draft maps were released days before the session began 10 years ago. Committees approved the same guidelines in 2010, meaning lawmakers aren't required to give the public an advance look or draw district with an eye toward making it possible for candidates from different parties to win.
The guidelines say lawmakers have to consider whether they are splitting counties or precincts, although not cities. Lawmakers must also consider whether a district is compact and whether communities of interest are kept whole. But there are no standards the guidelines say lawmakers should meet. The guidelines also say map drawers should avoid drawing incumbents together into the same district when it’s “unnecessary.”
For majority Republicans, the process could help them pry back one or more U.S. House seats in a 14-member delegation now split 8-6 in favor of the GOP.
Because the state constitution says that members of the state House and Senate must be residents of their district for at least a year before their election, the late start means that anyone who would like to move to run for a different district once the new lines are adopted won’t be able to. The 2022 general election is on Nov. 8. Congressional candidates face no residency requirement.
State and local governments must redraw lines for congressional, legislative and other electoral districts once every 10 years following the U.S. Census to equalize populations. The process helps determine which party will hold power for the following decade.
The state’s overall population rose nearly 10% to 10.7 million people over the decade, but Census results showed uneven growth, with most new residents concentrated in the Atlanta area and around Savannah. Most rural areas lost population.
Kemp did ask legislators to pass a law confirming his authority to suspend the collection of taxes on motor fuels, which he did by order while a key pipeline was crippled by hackers. He’s also asking lawmakers to amend the state tax code to conform with changes to the federal tax code.
The starting date could also limit the length of the session, with Thanksgiving only three weeks later. The state constitution limits a special session to 40 days unless three-fifths of each house votes to extend it.
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