Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Lawmakers to Try Again on Senate Districts

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Lawmakers to Try Again on Senate Districts

Article excerpt

Florida Senate leaders hope a few tweaks can fix their state Supreme Court-invalidated redistricting plan, but any changes could have a domino effect on local and statewide politics.

Among the impacts as the Senate convenes Wednesday for a 15-day special legislative session on redistricting: Whether Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, will be eligible for another six years in office rather than the typical four-year term and the shape of the two main Senate districts that cover Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last Friday that eight oddly shaped Senate districts approved by the Legislature were unconstitutional and took issue with how districts across the state were numbered to stagger their election cycles in a way that allows many incumbents to serve 10 or 11 years instead of the typical eight.

Detert, who has significant power over redistricting as a member on the Senate reapportionment committee, said Monday that she has no interest in serving another six years and hopes to see that changed. She also predicted a relatively simple fix for the proposed district that stretches from Manatee County to the city of Lakeland, which was ruled unconstitutional.

"It's a noticeable aberration," Detert said. "When we originally did maps we had Manatee looking more like a rectangle. That's what I would be shooting for and that might impact me. I might have to go further south and pick up a little more of Charlotte County."

Senate leaders have tried to put a positive spin on the Supreme Court ruling, noting that 32 out of the 40 districts were ruled constitutionally valid.

"Given the fact that 80 percent of our seats were ratified, I'm sure the last 20 percent will come in line with their recommendations," said Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he hopes a few smaller adjustments will satisfy the court, which was tasked for the first time with interpreting a new voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires political districts be compact and not favor incumbents. …

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