Two Republican State Senators — One from Outside Gwinnett County — Use Redistricting Special Session as Attempt to Overhaul Elections of County School Board, Makeup of Commissioners
ATLANTA — Less than one week into a special legislative session purportedly scheduled for redistricting, Republican state lawmakers in Georgia filed bills that would gerrymander the Board of Commissioners and allow politicians to insert their own agendas into Gwinnett classrooms by changing the way Board of Education elections are run.
Senate Bill 5EX would change how county Board of Education members are elected, while Senate Bill 6EX would remake the county Board of Commissioners. Both bills were proposed with no notification or input from elected Democrats or Gwinnett residents.
Gwinnett County is Georgia’s second largest, with nearly one million residents. It is one of the most diverse counties in the country, with a 30 percent Black and 13 percent Asian American Pacific Islander populations and where 22 percent of residents are of Hispanic or Latino origin. The county voted for Democratic candidates for president and senate by an 18- to 21-point margin a year ago. In 2020, Democrats captured a majority on the Board of Education and a majority on the Board of Commissioners for the first time in nearly thirty years.
“After two turbulent years of students trying to learn during a global pandemic and nearly a decade of refusing to fully fund public education, Georgia Republicans now are trying to sneak through a reckless partisan power grab to take over the Gwinnett County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners.,” said Hillary Holley, organizing director for Fair Fight and a Lawrenceville native. “The Republican power-grab bills would gerrymander the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners while allowing politicians to meddle in our classrooms so they can insert their own political agendas on the Board of Education rather than helping schools invest in classrooms so our students can get back on track and thrive. This shameful attempt to take away local control from Gwinnett voters is part of Republicans’ anti-democratic and anti-voter agenda, and is nothing less than an effort to silence the voices of Gwinnett County’s growing communities of color after Republicans failed to win in free and fair elections”
Read more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution below:
November 9, 2021
- A state legislator wants to nearly double the number of members on Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners and have members of the county’s Board of Education run in nonpartisan elections.
- County officials and Democratic state legislators first heard about a proposed change to the Board of Commissioners by a vague notice placed in the Gwinnett Daily Post warning that legislation would be introduced to amend the act that created the county’s board.
- State Rep. Sam Park, a Democratic legislator who chairs the Gwinnett Delegation, sent out an email to his colleagues last Thursday inquiring about the notice. Dixon did not claim it by Monday morning and other Democrats were unsure of its purpose.
- [County Commissioner Kirkland] Carden didn’t know any details of the legislation until he received a Monday night email with a proposed list of first bill reads for the state Senate. He said he’s disappointed with the lack of communication between Dixon and the Board of Commissioners.
- “This is an approach taken by a small group of legislators in a backroom for a county of (nearly) 1 million people,” Carden said.
- The bill would require additional commissioners to be present to form a quorum, which would make it difficult for the board to make timely decisions, Carden said. He added that the bill would not only add add five seats but undermine and weaken the chairperson’s position.
- “I think this is a poorly planned bill,” Carden said. “I don’t think they took in a lot of consideration as to the implementation in county government. If they did, it’s pretty clear to me their goal was to hurt the efficiency of county government in which we’re able to get together to do our job to serve the people.”
- “We had no clue Sen. Dixon was planning this but will continue to work together as a Board to make sure our process is transparent and compliant,” said Everton Blair, chairperson of the Gwinnett County Board of Education, in a Tuesday text message.
- For the first time in nearly three decades, Democrats took control of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in 2020. The new members took seats previously held by Republicans.
- Democratic state senators from the Gwinnett Delegation addressed their colleagues on Tuesday to say that the bills shouldn’t be taken up during the special session. Local legislation is only intended to be brought up during the session if there is an urgent need for it, said state Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta.