MOULTRIE -- After hearing criticism from half the county's state House delegation, Rep. Richard Royal, D-Camilla, on Tuesday canceled a House reapportionment committee hearing set for Thursday.
Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, and Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, said Monday they were caught unawares by a redistricting map drawn by Royal and co-sponsored by Rep. Penny Houston, D-Nashville, that affected their districts. The map was to be discussed Thursday in committee.
Royal was outraged at the suggestion that he was trying to pull a fast one.
"Everybody's going to have an opportunity to look at that. ... All I tried to do is clean up the mess in Colquitt and Thomas counties," Royal said.
"I would never in my wildest imagination pass a plan without letting them do their particular districts. I don't care what they draw for themselves. My instructions to the reapportionment office was to put Colquitt and the two districts with Mr. Scott and myself, take Thomas County out and try to keep the other demographics as close to what they are now. I did not give them any instructions how to draw Mr. Rynders' and Mr. Scott's districts. I left that up to the office and asked them to keep their numbers as close and (Republican and Democrat) performance (numbers) as close as they could," he said.
Royal contacted Scott Tuesday morning and said the two came to an understanding.
Scott, though still stung by Royal not contacting him about the reapportionment committee meeting, said, "I trust Richard to do what he told me he was going to do -- that we would all work together to resolve this issue. My hope would be that we would address it in the next legislative session."
The proposed changes in Colquitt and Thomas counties ripple into six other districts and would not affect the rest of the state's map, he said.
As to Scott's comments that Royal would "cram" the proposed map "through the same way he did the last one," Colquitt County's senior House representative said that was an "absolute lie."
Royal said the meeting was for information purposes only.
"My intentions were to never hurt anyone's party performance in their districts. I was only trying to accomplish what I thought the citizens of Colquitt County wanted me to do in terms of restoring their county to some type of political uniformity. ... And I had no intentions of running it through without serious consideration by everyone. That's why -- the bill is really intended for next year," he said.
Royal said he did not ask for the hearing; the committee offered it as a courtesy.
Royal pointed out that the bill was introduced March 3, and other legislators had ample time to review it.