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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Balfour: Census will change county representation

Camie Young

Camie Young

The Georgia General Assembly has a difficult task ahead, with Census numbers revealing last week that a 14th congressman will be added to the state.

The political fight will likely begin in a special session after final 2010 numbers come in late March or early April, said Sen. Don Balfour, but Gwinnett could be in a good position during reapportionment.

Balfour, a Republican from Snellville who heads the powerful Senate Rules Committee, said the new congressional district will be “somewhere in the Northern Arc” among the fast-growing metro area. It could affect the area Rob Woodall will represent come January.

“Each congressman will have their druthers about where their districts will lie and what they will give away,” Balfour said. “They will be very friendly with the (state) legislature for the first time in 10 years.”

While there is no indication yet as to the congressional impact on Gwinnett, Balfour said local residents are likely to gain some representation in the General Assembly.

The biggest change could come in Senate District 45, currently represented by Renee Unterman. The district stretches from Loganville to Buford and has experienced tremendous growth since the opening of the Mall of Georgia just before the last census was conducted, he said. The district could almost be cut in half, he predicted.

The county could pick up two to three House seats, too, he added.

Also this year, the local delegation will have to draw new lines for commissioners, equally spreading the population among districts.

But at this point, Balfour said he doesn’t know how many districts will be drawn. Lawmakers are likely to consider a recent special grand jury report that suggested more representation or at-large commissioners to avoid more issues with controversial land deals.

Balfour said legislators haven’t come to a consensus yet, but if commission districts are added, school board districts will also likely be added.

“Certain areas (of Gwinnett) have grown substantially,” Balfour said. “We can’t start drawing until we know what the numbers look like.”

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.

For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.