Some Gwinnett lawmakers surprised by bills making changes to county commission, school board

ATLANTA — Tempers flared at the State Capitol Wednesday as some Gwinnett County Democrats said they were surprised by two bills dropped by a Gwinnett Republican lawmaker that would dramatically alter both the county commission and the school board.

Buford State Sen. Clint Dixon introduced both bills Tuesday. One would nearly double the size of the county commission from five to nine. The other would redraw school board member district lines in time for May’s election.

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Dixon told committee members Wednesday that lawmakers have talked about expanding the size of the commission for years. He also said he was motivated to alter the school board district lines because of concerns over the dismissal of Gwinnett School Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and potential changes in school curriculum.

“This is not a new issue,” Dixon said. “This has been brought up probably for the last decade. This is nothing new. They proposed this multiple times in the past.”

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But Gwinnett Democrats insist in the past they included Republicans in the discussion. They were furious that Dixon dropped the two bills without informing them, county commissioners or school board members. They chalked it up to “dirty politics.”

“This is an undemocratic power grab,” said State Rep. Jasmine Clark (D) Lilburn. “My Democratic colleagues and I will do all we can to protect the voters of Gwinnett County from these dirty politics.”

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“I am disgusted by this hyper-partisan power grab,” said State Rep. Sam Park (D) Lawrenceville, the chair of the Gwinnett Legislative Delegation. “It seems now that Gwinnett Republicans were secretly meeting and plotting to take back power for themselves after Georgia voters and Gwinnett voted them out of office.”

The Senate committee voted to send the school board bill to the full Senate. It ran out of time on the county commission bill and may return Thursday to vote on it.

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