State lawmakers return next week for special session

ATLANTA — State lawmakers will return to the Gold Dome on Monday as part of a special session primarily aimed at finalizing new districts for the state House and Senate and congressional districts.

Georgia is gaining a 14th seat in Congress following last year’s Census. Other items on the docket for the special session include “technical changes” — as Gov. Nathan Deal’s office put it in a news release — to next year’s TSPLOST referendum and a formal ratification of the governor’s gas tax rate freeze.

“My aim is to sign into law fair maps that comply with the mandates that the federal government sets forth,” Deal said in a statement. “We will update our state and congressional legislative district maps to reflect the population changes documented in the 2010 Census, and we will  honor the sacred principle of ‘one person, one vote.’

“Working swiftly, as our maps require preclearance from the Department of Justice, we will also work to provide candidates and voters as much time as possible to prepare for the next election cycle and to keep costs down for Georgia taxpayers,” the governor added.

Republican state lawmakers say the proposed districts are better than what Democrats proposed in 2001 as the new districts divide fewer counties and only two state senators will be forced to run against one another.

“This proposed plan gives the people of Georgia the opportunity to choose their state Senators because it’s not gerrymandered,” Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said in a news release. “We have learned the lessons of 2001 and created a plan that fairly represents the people, not one designed solely to achieve a political outcome.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers are expected to agree to change the date of a vote on the proposed TSPLOST, which would levy a 1-cent tax on residents of Metro Atlanta and cover the costs of a slew of transportation projects. The vote is scheduled for July 2012, but lawmakers are expected to agree to move the vote to November 2012 to coincide with the general election, various pundits suggest.

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