GOP Bills Call for Changes in Georgia’s Second Largest County | Georgia News

By JEFF AMY, Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) – Republicans are set to pass bills changing the makeup of the county and school board in Georgia’s second-largest county after Democrats took control of both bodies.

The Senate Committee on State and Local Government Operations on Wednesday voted 4 to 3 to approve Senate Bill 5EX, which would change the way the Gwinnett County Board of Education is elected from partisan races to no partisan. It would also redesign school board districts, taking that power back from the current board.

The committee briefly considered but did not vote on Senate Bill 6EX, which would increase the Gwinnett County commission from four to nine members. A president would continue to be elected across the county, but would vote in future meetings only in the event of a tie.

The measures are Republicans’ latest proposals to change local government, including separating Columbia County from a Democratic-dominated Augusta judicial circuit, allowing the Buckhead neighborhood to separate from Atlanta, and creating new ones. new towns in Cobb County after Democrats took over the county government.

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Sen. Clint Dixon of Buford, the only Republican in the Gwinnett County Senate delegation, said school board changes were needed because his constituents were alarmed at the board’s earlier decision to fire longtime Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks before his planned retirement and because they are worried. school board members can force changes to the curriculum, including teaching critical race theory. While this term refers to a particular academic theory of how legal structures can perpetuate racism, Republicans use it to attack a wide range of efforts to teach racism as well as efforts to include populations. various.

“My constituents are very concerned,” Dixon said. “We have got, in my opinion, currently one of the best school systems in the state. The direction the current board is taking for our school system, I have become very nervous, and Gwinnett’s parents are very nervous.

Gwinnett District, which has 180,000 students, is the largest in the state, teaching more than 10% of all public school students in the state. Students are one-third Hispanic and one-third black, with smaller proportions of white and Asian students.

Democrats argued that the bill was an attempt to reclaim the power that white Republicans have lost. They also questioned whether the proposed districts would violate federal voting rights law by removing a majority black district.

“I find it hard to believe this is not an attack on people of color in Gwinnett County,” said State Representative Jasmine Clark, a Democrat from Lilburn who testified against the bill.

Dixon argued that the bill expanding the county commission is necessary because the four district commissioners now each represent nearly 250,000 people as the county has grown.

“This bill would help the citizens of Gwinnett to be better represented at the local level,” Dixon said.

The measure was overturned without a vote after Democrats complained that they had not received maps of the proposed districts and that the committee ran out of time.

Democrats dispute it is even appropriate for the General Assembly to consider bills, claiming Republicans are breaking rules that are supposed to require a majority of the Democrat-dominated legislative delegation in Gwinnett County to approve the legislation local. They also question whether it is appropriate for lawmakers to consider the bill in a special session where Gov. Brian Kemp said local laws could only be considered “to avoid unreasonable hardship or to avoid infringement. undue public service “.

“This is out of order and incredibly concerning as to how you are trying to rush legislation,” said Rep. Sam Park, a Democrat from Lawrenceville who chairs the Gwinnett County delegation.

Dixon said his bills were allowed in the special session because local election officials would need time to prepare for next year’s new election, and because a non-partisan election would be held in May and no in November.

Democrats also complained verbally after Local and State Government Operations Committee Chairman Lee Anderson, a Republican from Grovetown, ignored a motion to vote on the first bill.

Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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