Bills to expand Gwinnett commission, school board likely going nowhere

Jan 30, 2018
State Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin, D-Duluth, in 2014. Marin filed last year bills to reshape and expand Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners and school board. FILE PHOTO

Proposed legislation with the capacity to reshape Gwinnett County’s government and open the door for more diverse representation is unlikely to be pursued this session, the representative behind the legislation said.

State Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, filed last March two separate bills that proposed adding seats to Gwinnett’s Board of Commissioners and to its county school board. He said the goal was better representation, in terms of both numbers and diversity.

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The Board of Commissioners has four district commissioners and one at-large chairperson to represent more than 900,000 residents; the school board has five members. Neither body has ever had a non-white member.

The bill rolled over to the current legislative session, but Marin said he’s unlikely to make a push for its passing.

“I will not be doing much on it,” Marin wrote in a recent email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I was supposed to do some townhall meetings during the fall about the bill, but with my son’s death in June I postponed it.”

Marin’s 32-year-old son, Joel, died unexpectedly June 10.

Marin had proposed holding public hearings to gauge popular opinion regarding his proposal. Those hearings never happened.

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Even if they had, Marin’s bills would have had a tough road before becoming law.

His proposals had the backing of many fellow Gwinnett-representing Democrats in the General Assembly, but they found opposition pretty much everywhere else. Gwinnett County and Gwinnett County Public Schools themselves opposed the bills, in part because their respective districts will already be redrawn following the 2020 census.

Perhaps surprisingly, the bills also drew criticism from groups like the Georgia Association for Latino Elected Officials and the Gwinnett County NAACP. Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director of GALEO, argued that the new district boundaries included in Marin’s bills didn’t go far enough toward giving minority voters a proportionate voice in every area of the county.

GALEO and the Georgia NAACP are involved in their own litigation over Gwinnett’s commission and school board districts. A federal voting rights suit they filed last year argues that the districts for both bodies are drawn to dilute the influence of minority voters.

Marin said reshaping Gwinnett’s government is “still something that is needed,” and that criticism of his bills was not the reason he won’t pursue them this session.

“I don’t really care about the opposition,” he said.

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