Legislature approves new congressional district maps

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- State lawmakers had about 15 days to redraw the congressional districts, and they finished with time to spare. The legislature voted today to approve a new map which alters seven of the state's congressional districts.

"We were able to come up with what we feel really meets the spirit of the orders," said State Senator Bill Galvano. The court order came from Judge Terry Lewis, who found two congressional districts in the state to be unconstitutional. And he gave the group a tight 15 days window to make the correction.

"I wasn't surprised that we were able to get it done in short order," said Galvano.

The altered districts include District 17 in our area, but Galvano says the change only impacts about a thousand people. The change also expands the district, rather than making it smaller.

"It was only a change at the northern bounder which got moved up to Osceola County," Galvano says.

But political commentator Regina Hopper says the changes aren’t a done deal.

"This vote was largely along party lines both in the House and the Senate,” Hopper points out. “Democrats, before this vote came up, felt they were being excluded from some of the discussion and they also felt excluded as they moved forward."

Representatives from the League of Women Voters, the organization that brought the suit that resulted in the court order, are also not happy with the results.

"We're disappointed,” says Deirdre Macnab. “We feel that the maps that emerged after a number of closed door sessions look suspiciously like the maps that the judge ruled as invalid and unconstitutional."

In the meantime, Hopper says the judge still has to approve the new congressional maps.

"It’s up to the judge now to determine if the constitutional parameters he set out for them to follow were actually followed,” Hopper says. “I would say we are still in an area of uncertainty, certainly with regard to the maps, and then also we’re still not sure when the new map will be put into effect."