ATLANTA -- Some serious differences of opinion among Macon-Bibb's state House members boiled over into frustrated statements from Democrats on Tuesday.
"I think we've failed as a delegation," state Rep. Nikki Randall said at a news conference she held with state Rep. James Beverly, a fellow Macon Democrat.
They said Macon-Bibb's majority-Republican team of state lawmakers are not acting in the interests of the county's residents.
The county's team at the Gold Dome is important because it has the power to pass laws that do things such as set Macon-Bibb election dates, create or change county boards or redraw commission districts.
Randall and Beverly think it's worth doing all those things, but they have failed to attract the Republican support they need to get a hearing on any of those ideas.
Beverly's House Bill 978 would set Macon-Bibb's mayor and County Commission elections on the same November dates as presidential general elections.
"We should have elections when the most people show up," Beverly said.
He urged Macon-Bibb residents to call their lawmakers and demand the change to November ballots.
Beverly also filed a new House Bill 1089 on Tuesday that would adjust the County Commission district map. It includes what he called "cleanup" changes, such as redrawing one line that slices through an apartment building where, in 2013, some voters were given the wrong ballot.
State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, opposes both measures. He said it is too late to make any changes to elections that are now scheduled on May 24.
"It would completely disrupt what people have been planning," he said.
Randall said there is unfinished business left over from the Macon-Bibb consolidation related to the boards and authorities that oversee things in Macon-Bibb such as transit and economic development.
Right now the mayor has all the appointment power to those boards that used to be split between the county and the city. Randall wants to see the County Commission get some of that appointment power. She also wants the delegation to comb through the dozens of such bodies that exist on paper, with an eye to seeing which ones might need to be disbanded or otherwise changed.
"We told the public we would come back and address that the next year" after the 2012 consolidation vote, Randall said. She said that indeed, the next year the delegation did review about half those boards and authorities, but never finished the work.
"This delegation has gone back on our word," she said.
But Peake said he thinks the consolidated government is moving in the right direction, and he has not heard that there is an urgent need for legislation now.
"I don't know that it's necessary to make those changes," he said.
Republican state Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, said he thinks any board and commission redo is a job for people closest to the issues in Macon-Bibb.
"I'm looking to the nine-member County Commission ... to make recommendations," he said.
The commission did send one recommendation up to Atlanta this year, though not all nine members signed on to it. Seven commission members, over Mayor Robert Reichert's veto, asked state lawmakers to give the commission the power to hear appeals from any top staffers fired by the mayor.
That idea "deserved a real hearing," Randall said. But at a meeting of a quorum of Macon-Bibb lawmakers from the House and Senate, four voted against the proposal, and that's enough to block its progress.
Peake said he heard from voters that they did not want the change.
The division on all those issues has left Beverly and Randall frustrated.
"You have five middle-aged white men controlling Bibb County. ... Bibb county is 54 percent black, ... so that's a problem based on gerrymandering," said Beverly, referring to the county's total of five Republican representatives and senators.
But splits are common enough in areas where urban, suburban and rural legislators from both sides of the aisle have a say in an area's decisions.
Peake said, "Those were the seats as they were drawn up by the Legislature. That's what we have at least until the next redistricting."
The next redistricting will happen after the 2020 U.S. Census.
To contact writer Maggie Lee, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org