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Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 1:33pm

Draft Congressional Maps Head to House Vote

A key House committee approved draft congressional maps Wednesday. The proposal will keep an air force base near Valdosta in the first congressional district. The draft maps now head to the full House for a vote.

Under the map proposed Monday, Moody Air Force Base would have been taken out of the first congressional district.

Rep. Roger Lane chairs the House redistricting committee. He says Congressman Jack Kingston of the first district lobbied this week to keep the base.

Lane says the change makes sense because there are several bases in his district, and Kingston serves on a Congressional armed services subcommittee.

“Moody Air Force base being with the other three military bases that Congressman Kingston has in the first district makes that more of a military district for him to represent military interests,” Lane told the committee.

That minor change, however, did nothing to mollify the Democrats. They say they will unveil an alternate plan Thursday that would preserve the district of Democratic congressman John Barrow.

Under the proposed map, Barrow’s base of Savannah would no longer be part of his district.

In a statement, Barrow said, "This isn't the first time the folks in Atlanta have put politics above the interests of the people I represent... and I doubt it will be the last. But I've always believed that working hard for the people trumps politics every time.

With a new congressional district in a Republican-leaning area of North Georgia, there likely will be ten Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation.

And Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, an Atlanta Democrat, says that’s overreaching.

“Our goal is not to increase our power," she said following the committee meeting. "We don’t seek to add additional Democratic members. But we do think the addition of a 14th congressional district, which gives the Republicans nine members, should be sufficient for any party in power.”

Abrams did not testify before the hearing. Instead, Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta spoke. He expressed concerns that the draft maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act, which he said, as a Civil Rights activist, he considered "the North Star" and a beacon of hope for African-Americans.

Republicans have proposed removing a part of his district so that one of their own party can represent a wealthy section of Atlanta in Congress.

State lawmakers plan to vote on the draft congressional maps Thursday. Their special session will then turn to legislation for a transportation tax vote.

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