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Florida Legislature will return to redraw Senate maps

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Legislative leaders announced Tuesday they will hold a special session to redraw the state’s 40 Senate districts after the chamber acknowledged it violated the state Constitution by creating maps that benefit Republicans and incumbents.

The decision comes less than three weeks after the state Supreme Court threw out the congressional districts the GOP-dominated Legislature approved, saying those maps were drawn to favor Republicans. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner said that ruling would have implications for the Senate maps, which are also being challenged in court by a coalition of groups including the Florida League of Women Voters.

The special session was called in an effort to settle that lawsuit. It will begin Oct. 19 and end Nov. 6.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican in charge of the Senate redistricting committee, called the decision the “prudent thing to do.” He said the Supreme Court ruling would have made it difficult for the Legislature to prevail.

“As a lawyer I understand you have to judge future outcomes from past outcomes,” Galvano said. “This hopefully will bring this issue to a close.”

The Senate took full responsibility for violating the Constitution, saying in a court filing that the House had no input on the Senate districts.

“The Florida House of Representatives did not amend the Senate Plan and had no role in its creation. The Florida House of Representatives did not intend to favor or disfavor any political party or incumbent, and had no knowledge of any constitutional infirmities relating to the Senate Plan,” lawyers for the Senate wrote.

Lawmakers are already scheduled to return to the Capitol next month to draw new congressional maps, as they did last year after a circuit court judge ruled they violated the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled this month that the redraw still didn’t meet constitutional requirements.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 requiring compact political districts that don’t benefit parties or incumbents. Republicans have a 26-14 majority in the state Senate.

“What happened in 2012 when the districts were drawn undercover with no intention of considering the best needs of a district and its voters was an egregious example of greed, influence and naked political ambition,” said Pamela Goodman, president of the Florida League of Women Voters.

Lawmakers also held a special session in June to resolve a budget dispute.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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