Will a GOP supermajority in the GA legislature open the door to constitutional changes?

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September 30, 2011

By David Godow

Georgia

ATLANTA, Georgia:

As the warm weather months come to a close, Georgia politicos have begun to wonder whether the state GOP's controversial redistricting plan may end up leaving Dems out in the cold... permanently. The approval of Georgia's GOP-drawn redistricting map by Governor Nathan Deal this August could grant Republicans a permanent legislative supermajority and, as a result, the freedom to make unilateral changes to the Georgia Constitution.

As it stands, Republicans hold a 35-20 majority in the Georgia Senate (with one vacancy), and a 112-63 majority in the Georgia House of Representatives (with four vacancies). The redistricting map signed by Deal passed entirely without Democratic support; opponents argued it favored Republicans by "packing" (i.e. consolidating) traditionally blue areas into a smaller number of districts, thus reducing Dem representation. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams called it a "purge" of white Democrats, who will now be forced to run against their black colleagues in many traditionally black areas.

If, as some left-leaning advocacy organizations fear, Republicans pick up 8 seats in the House and 3 seats in the Senate, they would hold supermajority status in both chambers.[1] As a result, they would be able to amend the state constitution entirely without Democratic support. Though such a move would require significant party discipline, it could leave Democrats in a permanently vulnerable position in the state legislature. William Perry, representing the progressive non-profit Common Cause Georgia, told Georgia Public Broadcasting that effective one-party control could lead to less debate and greater partisanship in state politics.[2]

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