The Florida Senate’s reapportionment committee met yesterday to discuss a contentious issue — the redrawing of district lines to reflect data gathered in the newest census. It’s an issue that has become more convoluted thanks to the recent passage of Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called Fair Districts amendments that created strict rules for how politicians can draw up district maps.
The Florida Senate’s reapportionment committee met yesterday to discuss a contentious issue — the redrawing of district lines to reflect data gathered in the newest census. It’s an issue that has become more convoluted thanks to the recent passage of Amendments 5 and 6, the so-called “Fair Districts” amendments that created strict rules for how politicians can draw up district maps. #
The distribution of seats in the Florida legislature and the state’s congressional delegation will have to shift to even out the population distribution among districts and account for as many as two additional congressional seats Florida is expected to receive. #
During the last round of redistricting, which followed the 2000 census, people could send a $20 check to get a CD that would allow them install desktop software, which they could use to explore demographic data and tinker with district boundaries. #
This year, the public will have access to a pair of web applications that will allow them to track different redistricting proposals and draw their own lines using “an easy set of tools” similar to Google Maps, according to John Guthrie of the Senate reapportionment committee’s staff. #
One application, District Explorer, will allow anyone to look at redistricting proposals as they are submitted and analyze the boundaries and demographics. The other, District Builder, will allow anyone who obtains a username and password to try their own hands at drawing the districts. The House will have a seperate but largley similar system. #
“No other state is providing the level of public access that the House and Senate are going to provide in Florida,” Guthrie said. #
The process begins later this month, as the census data become available and the congressional seats are distributed among states. After that: #
+ In June, the first full version of District Builder software is set to become available. #
+ Later in the summer, public hearings begin around the state. Committee chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he wanted the software online before the hearings begin, so people could present their own district maps and weigh in on other proposals. #
+ In January 2012, the Florida legislature begins its regular session, which ends on March 9. Once both houses approve a redistricting proposal, they’ll have to submit it to the attorney general, who will have 15 days to send it to the Supreme Court. #
+ Then the Supreme Court has 30 days to review the proposal. #
+ Then the U.S. Department of Justice has 60 days to review the proposal. #
+ Mon., June 18 is the first day candidates can qualify to run for the new seats created by the redistricting process. #
That leaves only 100 days between the end of the session on March 9 and the start of qualifying on June 18. State Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, worried that with little time to spare, the process could be derailed by a lawsuit. #
Under Amendments 5 and 6, which passed in the November elections, districts must be as contiguous as possible, and may not be drawn with the intent of marginalizing minority groups or favoring any incumbent or political party. #
State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, warned fellow committee members that “intent” could be determined by analyzing lawmakers’ electronic communications, which could become evidence in such a lawsuit. #
A Sunshine State News article, now posted on the website of the Florida House of Representatives, argues that a pair of studies throws cold water on the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (aka PDMP) supported by the likes of Senate President Mike Haridpolos, Sen. Mike Fasano and Attorney General Pam Bondi, but opposed by Gov. Rick Scott and the leadership of the House of Representatives, which recently passed a bill to kill the program. The Sunshine story doesn't link to any of the studies, and it appears to quote them rather selectively, to put it charitably.
With the legislative session recently come to a close, Jacksonville's Mayoral race has taken the spotlight and is garnering attention state-wide. The race hasn't been without controversy - in February, candidate Mike Hogan came under fire for joking that it may cross mind to bomb an abortion clinic. Though the gaffe didn't do much in the way of limiting Hogan's supporters, his race against opponent Alvin Brown appears to be increasingly hard to call.