AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Every year before the start of the legislative session, Augusta officials sit down with the legislative delegation to discuss issues and at Thursday’s meeting sparks flew when the issue of redistricting came up.
Augusta commissioners approved the new city political map in November despite the opposition of residents of Summerville who didn’t want to see parts their neighborhood carved out of District 3.
“For District 3 citizens, who felt hopeless, back in November there’s hope for them as far as the state level,” said Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight who represents the area.
The commission and school board have approved the map, but so must the local legislative delegation. But commissioners hearing today from state senator Max Burns who said he can’t support the map because more work is needed to keep neighborhoods together.
“We can improve, and we must improve, if we’re only going to take that initial starting point, I’m not in a position to support that, I’m not comfortable,” said Senator Burns.
Commissioners who worked on the map are blasting Burn’s opposition.
“For Senator Burns to make a statement that he would veto it is a little disappointing, because it was passed by the Ad Hoc committee, it was passed by the commission, it was passed by the school board, who is the voice of the people they represent,” said Commissioner Alvin Mason.
Burns support will be needed if the map is to be approved by the local delegation, if not Augusta’s map could be end up being decided by the entire General Assembly, Delegation Chairman Wayne Howard says Augusta’s map is in political limbo.
“That could kill the bill, it could end up going to court, or who knows where it could go after that,” said Representative Howard.
This is not uncharted territory, the district lines for voting Augusta are using now were drawn by the Federal Court a decade ago, when elected officials could not agree to a new political map.