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DeKalb legislators introduce county commission, school board redistricting bills

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DeKalb legislators introduce county commission, school board redistricting bills

Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Atlanta, GA — State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) and state Sen. Emanuel Jones (SD-10) have introduced bills for the redistricting of the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners and School Board. The goal is to approve the maps by Feb. 18.

Drenner introduced the county commission maps that were drawn by the state Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office in her bill. That maintains the current structure of the board with five single-member districts and two super districts. The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners recently voiced their support for the LCRO maps.

At the DeKalb House delegation meeting on Feb. 9, Drenner said that House Bill 1250 and House Bill 1235 are placeholder bills as local bills had to be introduced on Monday. Changes could be made based on public comment and before sending the bills to the Senate for consideration.

The DeKalb House delegation completed their public hearings on Feb. 9 and also held a town hall on redistricting on Feb. 8. During the town hall, some residents raised concerns about Jones’ proposal to shift to seven single-member districts and eliminate the two super districts.

As part of the local process, the DeKalb House and Senate delegations have to get a certain number of signatures from the delegation members in order to move the map forward. The House delegation needs nine signatures and the Senate delegation would need four signatures.

“[The Board of Commissioners] submitted those maps to Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment, and they reviewed them,” Drenner said. “There were some technical problems associated with those maps. Those changes were integrated into House Bill 1250.”

The DeKalb County School Board did not submit a map directly to the DeKalb legislative delegation, so Drenner took the current districts, submitted them to the state reapportionment office and had them corrected for any population shifts, which she submitted under House Bill 1235.

The difference that she is aware of is that the Senate map has had more public input than the House bill. Her intent with doing the School Board was map was to move the process along, knowing there would be opportunities for public comment.

“We have a choice as a delegation. We can send over [the map in HB1235] or we can substitute [the Senate] map and put it in our bill and send it over,” Drenner said. “I believe Senate Bill 466 has had more conversations with more members of the School Board.”

“I am only trying to facilitate a path forward for the House at this juncture,” Drenner added.

Jones introduced Senate Bill 466 as well, which is the map for the DeKalb County School Board districts. The School Board chair worked with Jones to draft a map for the DeKalb Senate delegation, School Board member Allyson Gevertz, who represents Distrct 4, wrote in a Facebook post.

“For BOE District 4, the main differences between the current lines and the House version are that District 4 loses the following precincts: Skyland (John Lewis Elementary), Sagamore Hills (SHES), Coralwood (Coralwood School), and Valley Brook. It adds the following precinct: Stone Mountain Middle (SMM, Elizabeth Andrews, DECA),” Gevertz wrote. “For BOE District 4, the main differences between the current lines and the Senate version are that District 4 loses the following precincts: Skyland (John Lewis Elementary) and Valley Brook. No precincts are added.”

Drenner added that there is no legal requirement that district lines be changed right away after the Census. While there is no deadline for redistricting, the risk of a plan being subjected to a challenge increases the longer a redistricting plan is based on outdated Census information.

“If there’s an impasse between the Senate and the House, which is part of the legislative process, the election process does not come to a screeching halt,” Drenner said.

She assured residents, that while it may not be ideal to delay the process, there is still time for the legislature to draw the maps.

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