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Unknowns ahead for special session
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When state lawmakers convene in Atlanta to go over 250 new districts, some lawmakers may be thrust into vastly different districts.

With 88,000 in her House District 159, state Rep. Ann Purcell (R-Rincon) expects to lose quite a bit of the population she represents. Hers is the third-most populous of the 180 House districts in the state, and the average House district population is around 53,000.

Purcell expects the boundaries of her district to change — many others likely will do the same — but she wants to keep as much of it as possible.

"It’s going to be hard," she said. "You always worry, no matter if you’re sitting at the top population-wise. It’s a trying time."

Her current district includes largely the southern one-third of Effingham County, most of Port Wentworth, all of Pooler and Bloomingdale and stretches as far south as the Bamboo Farms and Coastal Gardens. State Rep. Jon Burns’ District 157 includes the remaining two-thirds of Effingham, all of Screven and Jenkins counties, northern Bulloch County to include Portal and a wedge of Burke County, including Sardis.

Purcell praised the efforts of Effingham’s General Assembly delegation, which includes state Sen. Jack Hill (R-Reidsville). She would like to see that team kept intact.

"I would like to see something preserved for Effingham County," she said. "We’ve got a good legislative team."

Gov. Nathan Deal has called for the special session to begin Monday at 10 a.m. No end date for the special session has been announced.

Lawmakers have seen draft maps of districts, but legislators have seen them in groups, such as the collection of lawmakers representing the coast. Also, each lawmaker has been focused on the maps for their chamber.

"As far as seeing a Georgia map, we haven’t seen one," Purcell said. "There are draft maps. But nothing has come together as a whole map."

The state also is adding a 14th Congressional seat, likely to be carved out of the exploding metro Atlanta area. Population growth around Atlanta and elsewhere in north Georgia, coupled with a shrinking population in southwest Georgia, could lead to vastly different lines being drawn. In the wake of the 2010 Census, the General Assembly has to assign 180 House districts, 56 Senate districts and now 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And maps may go through several editions, particularly if longtime friends among lawmakers are suddenly lumped into the same district.

"I don’t know what really to expect," Purcell said. "My concern was to protect the community I currently represent."

A notice of intent to file local legislation has been submitted to the governor to amend the law that created the county’s at-large chairman position. The proposed legislation seeks to eliminate the position and have the current board of commissioners revert to a five-member body with the chairman elected from the sitting commissioners.