Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Redistricting Gets a Do-Over

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Redistricting Gets a Do-Over

Article excerpt

LEGISLATURE: Lawmakers tasked with making maps confirm to ConstitutionTALLAHASSEEFlorida lawmakers began a 15-day special session on Wednesday to redraw Senate district lines after the Florida Supreme Court ruled the maps did not meet new constitutional anti-gerrymandering standards.Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he would offer a revamped Senate map by noon Saturday, with his committee scheduled to review the measure on Tuesday. The full Senate will consider the map March 22.Then the map will be taken up by the House before the session's scheduled end on March 28.House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the House will let the Senate "take the lead" on redrawing the Senate map. After the new map is approved by the Senate, the House will return to Tallahassee on March 26 to "scrutinize" the Senate plan before a final floor vote, Weatherford said.The state's highest court has singled out eight of 40 Senate districts for violating the constitutional Fair Districts standards - - approved by voters in 2010 -- including failing to meet a compactness measure and for favoring incumbents in some circumstances.One area highlighted by the court -- but not invalidated -- involved a Manatee County district that stretches north to Lakeland. The ruling also raised concerns about the division of Lakeland in the redistricting plan.The court has also cited the numbering system for the districts, ruling the current scheme favors incumbents by allowing them to run for terms that could exceed the state's "eight is enough" constitutional mandate that generally limits senators to two four-year terms.Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and other critics have called for a major overhaul of the 40 Senate districts.But Gaetz said the idea of "starting all over again and throwing out" all of the Senate's prior work would not happen. "Only people who enjoy chaos would like to do that," Gaetz said.Instead he said the Senate would adjust the "largely compliant" Senate map, while resolving the specific issues raised by the court.Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher, R-St. …

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