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Lobbyists in line to handle Ga. reapportionment?
By JIM WALLS
Legislative leaders are in discussions to hire a prominent lobbying firm to help redraw district lines for the Georgia House and Senate this year.
Under the proposal, Troutman Sanders Strategies would replace the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute in redrawing reapportionment maps for the Georgia General Assembly and the state’s delegation to Congress. By law, district lines are redrawn every 10 years.
Former House Majority Leader Jerry Keen joined the Atlanta-based firm last month as senior consultant of strategic development. Pete Robinson, the lobbying firm’s chairman, serves as vice chairman of Gov.-elect Nathan Deal’s transition team.
Redistricting is a highly political process that can be used to consolidate the power of the majority party. Common Cause Georgia and other good-government advocacy groups have pushed unsuccessfully for an independent reapportionment process.
The Legislature has contracted for previous reapportionments with the Carl Vinson Institute. Its duties, listed on its website, include
- Working with legislators to develop redistricting plans.
- Using redistricting software to generate legal descriptions for reapportionment bills.
- Producing maps for committee meetings and floor presentations.
- Maintaining an archive of all redistricting plans.
Reapportionment work will begin in a few months once reliable data from the 2010 census is in hand. The UGA institute would continue to work with local governments and school boards on redrawing districts.
Hiring Troutman Sanders Strategies has not been announced but may already have been decided.
“I think it is, but I haven’t got a final roundup on it so I don’t know,” said House Reapportionment Chairman Roger Lane (R-Darien).
Troutman Sanders Strategies last year lobbied legislators on behalf of about 50 clients, including Aflac, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Microsoft, the Home Builders Association and the Metro-Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
Lane said he sees no conflict with involving lobbyists in the redistricting process.
“They aren’t drawing the lines,” he said. “We draw the lines.”
Hiring Troutman Sanders would give the Legislature a consultant that could focus on legislative and congressional districts exclusively without the distraction of similar work for local governments, Lane said.
It might also save a little money, he said.