Georgia lawmakers approve changes to legislative and congressional districts
Following action in special session by the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal has signed into law proposed maps with new boundaries for all 180 districts of the state House of Representatives and all 56 districts of the state Senate. As a result, our current House District 176 will continue to include all of Lanier County and the northeastern portion of Lowndes County, while adding all of Atkinson County and the northern section of Ware County as well. Berrien County, presently in the 176th, will move into the 170th District, while Clinch County will move from the 176th to the 174th.
Both maps still must undergo a required review by the U.S. Justice Department or, possibly, the court system to determine compliance with the Voter Rights Act. Upon final approval, the new districts will take effect in the 2012 election cycle.
Also, House members voted to approve new boundaries for Georgia's congressional districts. The state has gained one U.S. House of Representatives seat for a total of 14 beginning next year as a result of Georgia's population growth between 2000 and 2010.
I am very pleased to report that Rep. Ellis Black (R-Valdosta), Rep. Amy Carter (R-Valdosta), Sen. Tim Golden (R-Valdosta) and I were able to convince our colleagues to make one important change to the congressional district map originally introduced by the Reapportionment Committee. That change enables the part of Lowndes County that includes Moody Air Force Base to remain in the 1st Congressional District, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah). Congressman Kingston is a member of the House Appropriations Committee's Defense Subcommittee, which is a very influential position on budget decisions affecting Moody AFB and all military spending at the federal level.
Redistricting at the federal, state and local levels is required every 10 years following a U.S. Census count to ensure that citizens have equal representation in the legislative branch of government. For more information, visit www.legis.ga.gov.
Gas Tax Freeze: In other action during the special session, lawmakers voted to ratify Gov. Nathan Deal's Executive Order freezing the state's gas tax, creating a beneficial tax break for Georgia families during the state's hard economic times.
During the first half of 2011, gas prices spiked dramatically spurring the governor to issue an executive order in June of 2011 suspending the collection of a portion of state taxes on sales of motor fuels and aviation gasoline. In order for the executive order to be extended it was necessary that members of the House and Senate approve the executive order during the 2011 Special Session. The tax increase would have been due to a biannual adjustment to the state's motor fuel tax.
Georgia's gas tax comes with several different parts: a fixed 7.5 cent per gallon excise tax charged on gasoline purchased in our state and a state sales tax of 4 percent calculated and converted to a per gallon cost based on the average retail price for midgrade gasoline during the previous six months. These two taxes, along with an 18 cent per gallon federal excise tax, are collected at the retail distribution level and built in to the cost of the gasoline. Local governments can add a variety of local option sales taxes on to the retail cost of gasoline. The state's 4 percent sales tax on gas is recalculated twice a year unless the price varies (up or down) by 25 percent or more, which triggers an immediate recalculation of the cents per gallon tax rate.
For example, in March of this year, fuel prices soared high enough to trigger a recalculation. The state's sales tax portion increased from the 10.1 cents per gallon (as established on January 1, 2011) to a rate of 12.9 cents per gallon which took effect on May 1. Had the governor not issued his executive order to prevent an increase, the sales tax portion of the gas tax would have increased again on July 1 (the normal bi-annual recalculation date) all the way up to 14.5 cents per gallon.