The lawmakers ejected observers from their morning meeting to discuss the issue for 30 minutes before the start of the General Assembly. As they left, Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta, said, “Now remember what we agreed.” And he and the others only said “no comment” when asked what was decided.
Delegation Chairman Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, did say discussions are ongoing and that no resolution had been reached. The delegation plans to meet again Monday.
At issue is the racial makeup of the districts. The House passed a plan nicknamed 3R drafted by a special committee of lawmakers, commissioners and school board members over the summer. It passed over the objection of Rep. Barbara Sims, the lone Republican in the House delegation.
Since then, the map has remained stalled in a Senate committee because the two senators in the delegation, Davis and Sen. Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro, put on the brakes.
“I’ve been holding off on any action,” Stone told the full delegation. “We’d like to go ahead and get a resolution.”
That’s when Davis reminded his colleagues that the Legislature is exempt from the Open Meetings Act and urged that the room be cleared of the three lobbyists and one reporter present.
Stone and Davis have come up with their own draft map, called 3R2, in conjunction with several commissioners and one board member. Davis had said he didn’t want to formally support it as a replacement for the House version until he won agreement from a majority of the House delegation.
The version the senators penned makes District 6 a swing district. Its population would be composed of 54 percent black, voting-age residents. Depending on voter turnout in a given election, black voters may or may not be the majority that day.
Davis has said he wants the districts designed so that a multiracial coalition could elect the candidates of their choice. Stone said he was responding to constituents and noted that several members of the commission and school board had expressed their misgivings about the 3R map they had originally supported when their groups voted.
The Legislature has seven work days left in this year’s session. After Wednesday’s consideration of a single bill in the House, it will be in recess until Monday.
Earlier in the meeting, the delegation agreed on appointments to five boards and postponed consideration on five others. It reappointed Clyde Lester, Eugene Tanzymore and Kitty Cato to the Sheriff’s Merit Board and Aishia Leverett to the Augusta Port Authority.
New appointments included Scott MacGregor to the Historic Preservation Board, Lillie Hamilton to the Augusta-Richmond County Library Board of Trustees and Gwendolyn Rountree, Tim McFall and Sanford Loy as nominees to become chairman of the Board of Elections. The Augusta Commission will pick one of the nominees.
There was agreement on all of the appointments except the Elections Board. Sims, who arrived at the meeting as it was breaking up, e-mailed her recommendation of Chip Barbee for the board to Stone, but the majority voted him down.
Postponed were appointments to the Riverfront Development, Canal Authority, General Aviation, Augusta-Richmond County Animal Control Board and two spots on the Board of Assessors. The terms for the delegation appointees serving on the Animal Control and Riverfront Development boards expired in 2010, and the General Aviation appointee’s term expired in 2011.