What Do We Do Now? FL Supremes To Pick Up Pieces From Failed Session

Aug 25, 2015

The unapproved "base map" from the Florida Legislature's third attempt at drawing constitutional congressional borders.
Credit FL Senate District Explorer

Florida’s congressional redistricting melodrama moved to a courtroom Tuesday, but the path forward looks no clearer.

It was back to square one Tuesday, as attorneys for the Legislature and voting rights groups gathered in the same court room that sent lawmakers into special session over a year ago.  Since that first revision of Florida’s congressional districts some things have changed and some things are very much the same.  

In terms of changes, the unified front Florida’s Legislature has presented in court for over year is now cracking—as bad blood from unrelated policy disputes like Medicaid expansion bleed into the fight over borders. 

Speaking after Tuesday’s hearing, redistricting committee chair Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), tried to laugh the tension off.

“I mean we’re the Legislature,” he says with a chuckle, “it’s not always smooth it’s not always easy, and this year is an example of that.”

Galvano reiterates his willingness to find a way for both chamber to come together.

“We could’ve all just come in here and said, ‘look, we’re catching our breath, we couldn’t get it done last week, but we’re going to come back and give it another try,’” Galvano says.  “That wasn’t said today.  It was represented that there was an opportunity or an interest on the part of the House, and hopefully we can still do that.”

This echoes Galvano’s call for a conference between both chambers at the end of the special session.  But when his counterpart in the House proved unwilling to enter that kind of negotiation, Galvano and a handful of other senators and staff walked out. 

Kind of unceremoniously. 

For League of Women Voters attorney David King, this just reiterates the thing he’s been saying all along: the courts need to draw the map.

“In their filings the House says we can’t agree on a map and we’re prepared for the court to draw a map, the Senate says they want to keep trying,” King says. 

“But it takes two to tango,” he continues, “you can’t get there unless both agree—and they don’t agree.  So it seems to me like there’s a good likelihood the court’s going to have to draw the map.”

Without the Legislature agreeing to a new map, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis says he needs direction from the Supreme Court.  The justices may decide it’s time to sharpen their pencils, shove the Legislature aside and get down to drawing new borders.  But we still haven’t hit the half way point between the Supreme Court order and its October 17 deadline for completing the project. 

Don’t expect a speedy conclusion.