Florida legislators convene to draw new congressional districts

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Florida legislators will convene a special week-long summer session starting today, with the goal of making quick work of a court-ordered fix to the congressional redistricting map.

Legislators will meet at noon in Tallahassee briefly. They will then adjourn to let the House and Senate redistricting committees hold a joint meeting, where they will hear legislative lawyers detail their options for fixing the congressional boundaries.

Last month the boundaries were ruled unconstitutional by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis, who ruled that the districts violated the Fair Districts rules of the state constitution.

Lewis gave lawmakers an August 15th deadline to repair two districts held by US Representatives Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) and Dan Webster (R-Winter Garden), expecting to make Brown’s sprawling 10-county district more compact while removing an “appendage” in the Webster district that gave an advantage to Republicans.

The Florida League of Women Voters has long helped lead the passage of voter amendments designed to create fair and representative districts.

Indeed, it was the League in 2012 that challenged the Legislature’s efforts at redrawing the districts, leading to a lawsuit that forced Florida lawmakers to potentially re-draw at least two congressional districts just three months before the election.

However, Republicans have accused the League of being politically biased, pointing to the group’s advocacy on issues such as opposition to school vouchers, support for Obamacare, support for gun control, and support for initiatives combatting global warming.

Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) went so far as to label the group “partisan plaintiffs masquerading as voting rights groups.”

“I think the proof is in the pudding,” said Jamie Miller, a veteran Republican campaign strategist in Sarasota. “Everything they stand for and push for are talking points right out of the Democratic Party hymnbook.”

The League will be in Tallahassee this week as they continue to urge lawmakers to draw new congressional districts that do comply with the “Fair Districts” amendments.