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Florida lawmakers resume work on US House map

The Florida House Redistricting Committee submitted this congressional map for consideration on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.
The Florida House Redistricting Committee submitted this congressional map for consideration on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022.

Florida House lawmakers are preparing to move forward with passing a congressional map after Gov. Ron DeSantis' request for judicial guidance on one of the state's minority access districts was denied.

The House Redistricting Committee submitted its version of a new U.S. House map on Thursday — soon after the state's highest court rejected DeSantis' request for an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of maintaining north Florida's African American opportunity district. House lawmakers paused progress on finalizing its congressional map last week after DeSantis asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in on Congressional District 5, which stretches from Gadsden County to the western part of Jacksonville.

Next Friday, the House Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee will take up the proposed map, which keeps the district largely intact.

"We are going to follow the law," said Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls, speaking to reporters on Thursday. "We are going to come out with a map that complies."

Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, an African American congressman, represents the eight-county district. In 2015, the state Supreme Court cited the district as a possible minority access district. Black voters make up 44% of the district's constituency.

The state Senate has already passed a congressional map that largely maintains the district's lines. After the House passes its version, the two chambers must negotiate a final plan before sending it to the governor for approval. DeSantis may veto the plan or choose not to sign it. If lawmakers can't reach an agreement, then the state Supreme Court will have the final say on how the lines are drawn.

Before DeSantis asked the court to issue guidance, he submitted his own version of a congressional map that carves up the district into four compact districts, effectively diminishing Black voters' ability to elect a congressional candidate of their choice.

In a 5-0 ruling, the court said DeSantis' question was too broad and would require a "fact-intensive analysis." The court also noted that questions about the state's congressional map are likely to arise later in the process.

"History shows that the constitutionality of a final redistricting bill for all congressional districts will be subject to more judicial review through subsequent challenges in court."

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.