House and Senate reach compromise on redistricting; Georgetown in 7th District

  • Friday, July 29, 2011

COLUMBIA SC — A compromise on redistricting was reached today by the House and Senate on Congressional redistricting in South Carolina, according to officials in the General Assembly.
Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Murrells Inlet, said that a filibuster was stopped unexpectedly late Tuesday afternoon and the Senate was allowed to take a vote.
The vote was 24-16 in the Senate, he said. The Senate agreed with the House compromise version of the redistricting bill.
The bill must now be approved by the governor.
All of Georgetown County will be included in the newly formed Seventh District, and be lumped with Horry County and the Pee Dee.
“After several hours of debate, speaking for and against the plan, the parties realized that we were a uniform Republican Party and we were going to stay until Sunday if we had to,” Cleary said.  
House Speaker Bobby Harrell said Tuesday afternoon that the House's adoption of the Congressional Reapportionment Compromise “represents the final piece of the redistricting puzzle.”
“This effort to advance a compromise prevents a legislative stalemate that would put the fate of South Carolina's Congressional districts in the hands of non-elected judges who do not represent our communities or interests."
The House compromise on redistricting was reached on Tuesday, by a 75 to 33 vote, when the S.C. House of Representatives passed a Congressional Reapportionment Compromise that includes a newly added 7th Congressional seat.
“After months of public input and work put in by state lawmakers, the House and Senate both passed initial — but vastly different — Congressional maps,” government officials said.  “This compromise took those two initial maps into consideration — along with the extensive input offered by the public, our Congressional Delegation and Legislative Members — to formulate a Congressional Plan Compromise that best represented our state as a whole.”
“It’s exactly what we expected and exactly what we wanted,” Cleary said. “It’s the Pee Dee plan with Horry and Georgetown together and joined with the Pee Dee and it puts Georgetown in the seventh district.”
Politicians agreed, before gathering on Tuesday, that the biggest dispute on redistricting would be  where to put the newly formed Seventh Congressional District in South Carolina.
The Senate plan, also known as the Beaufort plan, added the Seventh District in Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Dorchester, Hampton and Jasper counties.
The “Beaufort plan” got a nod of approval from at least 10 Republican senators last month who cast their votes with the Democrats.
The House plan, also known as the Pee Dee Plan, put the Waccamaw Neck in the Seventh District.
The rest of Georgetown would have remained in the Sixth District and leave Congressman Jim Clyburn in line to make decisions regarding the Georgetown Port.  
Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Kingstree, voted for the Beaufort plan, but then said last week he was more in favor of putting all of Georgetown County in the newly formed Seventh Congressional District instead of splitting the county.
McGill could not be reached for comment about Tuesday’s compromise.
He said last week that Georgetown County should be lumped with Horry County, Marion, Florence, Dillon and Marlboro counties, McGill said.  
“I don’t think you should divide counties,” McGill said. “It’s absolutely better not to divide a county. We want to keep the NESA region intact. That includes Georgetown, Marion, Marlboro, Darlington, Dillon, Florence and Horry. These are communities of interest and everything ties together. It’s an absolutely natural fit. But the right decision will be made.”
Cleary did not take a final vote on the Senate plan last month, but said he was not in favor of the Beaufort Plan.
“The Beaufort plan puts Williamsburg County all the way down to Beaufort... which they have nothing in common,” Cleary said.
McGill said he feels the Senate and the House will reach an agreement on redistricting, without the matter going to court.
“It is evident that we want a Pee-Dee-Grand Strand congressman,” he said. “That is the stand that I take. We know we have to meet Justice Department standards, but we have to look at communities of interest. I want to see the coastal counties joining hands with the Pee Dee.”
Other redistricting plans have resulted in court disputes in South Carolina, said Katherine Wells, staff attorney for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In 2001, an agreement was reached on redistricting, but the governor vetoed the bill, she said. The litigation eventually cost the state of South Carolina at least $1 million, she said.
 “I think there is just a different point of view over where the new Seventh Congressional District should be,” she said.

By Kelly M.Fuller

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