Saturday, January 12, 2013

Oconee County’s Representatives to Georgia House Not In Full Agreement On Redistricting

Issue Can Wait, Williams Says

Oconee County Rep. Regina Quick said she has asked legislative counsel to draft a bill restoring Oconee County to a single district in the Georgia House of Representatives, but it appears leadership of the House, not its members, will decide if the legislation even gets a hearing.

Oconee County Rep. Chuck Williams told me on Tuesday he will not support Quick’s initiative without approval of House leadership. If both representatives do not agree, the legislation is almost certain to die without action.

“I will support Regina’s efforts to the point I can,” Williams said in a telephone conversation. “But if it becomes obvious leadership is opposed, I will not jeopardize my standing with leadership.”

Both Quick, with whom I spoke by telephone on Monday, and Williams told me it is their intent to meet with House Speaker David Ralston and other House leaders shortly after the General Assembly opens its session on Monday to discuss redistricting.

Quick Made Campaign Promise

Quick made it a promise in the July primary campaign to seek a change in the composition of House District 117 if she were elected. She proposed to shift the three precincts of Oconee County that were added to her district in the 2011 special redistricting session to the 119th House District, represented by Williams.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners passed unanimously on Dec. 4 a resolution supporting “the efforts of Rep. Quick and Rep. Williams to pursue a change in the State legislation which would allow a return to Oconee County being represented by a single representative.”

Prior to redistricting in 2011, all of Oconee County was in a single House district, represented by Williams. With the support of Ralston, a Republican, the House that year put the Oconee County precincts of Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart into a district in which incumbent Doug McKillip resided.

McKillip, who had been elected as a Democrat in 2010 but changed to the Republican party, was defeated by Quick in the July 2012 party primary. Williams also is a Republican, and he voted for the redistricting bill.

Quick's proposal is to shift parts of Clarke County in Williams' district to her district.

Williams Been Cautious

Williams has stated reservations since Quick’s election about the feasibility of getting support of the Republican leadership for the changes she proposed.

He told me when we talked Tuesday that he had “huddled” with Quick on Monday to discuss the map and legislation that counsel is drafting for Quick. Williams and Quick were at a luncheon meeting in the courthouse with the county’s constitutional officers in anticipation of the upcoming General Assembly session.

Williams said he recommended that he and Quick meet with House leaders to “get a feel of whether or not the leadership is going to support pursing that.”

“There are lot of significant issues on the agenda for the legislative session,” he added. “And what I still don’t know is whether or not the legislature as a whole is going to want to take up any redistricting.”

Williams Notes 2014 Possibility

Williams noted that the resolution passed by the Oconee County BOC said it wanted the change to be made prior to the 2014 elections, and the legislature will meet again in 2014 prior to those elections and could take up the issue then if it doesn’t deal with it this year.

Williams also said he has “spent the last year and a half” working with Clarke County, which makes up more than half of his district, and he feels he has developed good relationships there. The district which elected Williams in a special election in the summer of 2011 contained only scattered parts of Clarke County.

Williams is a resident of Oconee County, while Quick is a resident of Clarke County.

Williams said it is his intent to represent both Clarke and Oconee counties in Atlanta.

“If I represent part of a county, I represent the whole county,” Williams said. “If the mayor of Bogart calls, I’m not going to say she is not in my district.”

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