On Wednesday, June 15, this reporter joined a conference call with State Representatives Roger Lane (R-Darien) and Tommy Smith (R-Nichols, represents Appling) to discuss a recent editorial written by this editor/publisher and published in this newspaper. The following is a portion of that editorial:
I read with interest a column last week in a neighboring newspaper written by columnist Tom Crawford. Crawford is editor of Capitol Impact’s Georgia Report and his column regarded Georgia’s redistricting process. Crawford states that in the Georgia House of Representatives, due to population loses, there could be as many as four to five South Georgia seats lost during reapportionment. In regard to these seats he cites, “A legislator like Tommy Smith (R - Nichols), who’s not particularly popular among some of his colleagues, may also see his district disappear.”
Lane, who serves as chairman of the House and Senate Reapportionment Committee/Hearings, stated that nobody in the House leadership understands the basis of why Smith was singled out in Crawford’s opinion piece, citing that Smith is very respected and popular in Atlanta.
“There are no feelings other than loyalty as far as Tommy is concerned in the Georgia House,” said Lane about Smith. “I have talked with leadership in the House and nobody has said anything about that district that I am aware of (referring to Smith’s district - House District 168). Those maps have not been drawn at this point and districts will not be decided (drawn) until August.”
The News-Banner asked Lane why no reapportionment hearings were scheduled in Southeast Georgia. Lane reported that originally a hearing was to be held in Brunswick. He added that during the negotiations between House and Senate members on the committee, the group of legislators decided to hold that hearing in Savannah due to the fact that they felt it would receive more media exposure. Lane also commented that the majority of hearings were scheduled in metropolitan areas. The News-Banner continues to contend that at least one hearing could have been held in say Waycross or Brunswick to give people in Southeast Georgia an opportunity to have a voice in this process.
During the conversation, Lane did confirm that there could be a number of house seats lost in South Georgia, as many as four to five. He added that the committee is working hard to find ways to put districts together and to keep from splitting counties, like a community such as Jeff Davis County, which is presently represented by three different representatives due to the way the districts were drawn during the 2002 reapportionment.
“We are very fortunate to have a Chairman of this important committee from South Georgia,” said Smith about Lane.
If we can take solace in knowing anything at this point concerning reapportionment for our part of the state it is that Rep. Lane, at the request of Rep. Smith, has agreed to possibly meet with Appling leaders in the coming weeks to discuss reapportionment. Thank you to Smith and Lane for hearing our cry and letting us possibly have a voice in this important process.