Wednesday, November 18, 2009

S. Ga. likely to lose state seats

By HANK ROWLAND
The Brunswick News

The voice of Atlanta and North Georgia in the state legislature is strong today, but it will be even stronger after 2010.

It will pick up several seats in the state House of Representatives at the expense of South Georgia due to population growth in northern counties, said Rep. Roger Lane, R-Darien, chairman of the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee.

"With the population shift, we know there are going to be more representatives north of the gnat line and fewer south of the gnat line," Lane said.

The gnat line runs the width of the state at Macon.

Early population figures from the U.S. Census show the southern region of the state losing at least six seats in the House to North Georgia.

"That's our estimate," Lane said.

The loses will be felt mostly in inland counties.

Number-wise, the 28 counties that make up Atlanta and surrounding area will control 100 of the 180 seats in the House. That leaves 131 counties claiming a part or all of the remaining 80 seats.

House districts today mirror a head count of 45,000. That number will jump to 55,000 with the state's higher population.

While districts on the coast may look different once Lane and his committee redraw them, there will be no loss of seats, he predicted.

Lane said House District 167, which he represents, will be among those that might have a new shape.

"Ours will expand a little bit," Lane said.

House District 179, on the other hand, represented by House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, will probably remain the same. It will continue to be unlike Lane's district, which takes in chunks of Glynn, Wayne, McIntosh and Long counties.

"District 179 will probably be one district - wholly Glynn County, if possible," Lane said.

Nothing will happen until the state gets the official census figures, which will be presented to President Barack Obama in December 2010 and then to the states by April 2011.

The coast is growing at 12 percent, compared to 18 percent in Atlanta and surrounding counties.

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