Inside the Lines: Second round of redistricting hearings possible

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The chairmen of the House and Senate committees charged with redrawing the state’s political boundaries raised the possibility Monday of trying to hold videoconferences throughout Florida as part of an effort to get reactions to legislative maps from voters who can’t make it to Tallahassee, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

The idea would apparently be aimed at tamping down criticism from groups like the League of Women Voters that the current round of public hearings around the state are a sham because lawmakers have not yet drawn and unveiled the maps they could vote on in next year’s legislative session.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the idea came from previous testimony at the public hearings and is being considered.

“We’re looking into the feasibility of these suggestions,” Gaetz said.

His House counterpart, Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also signaled to reporters in a joint appearance with Gaetz that the videoconference option was being weighed. He noted that lawmakers have pledged that they will not vote on a map without public input.

“Whether that means holding town hall meetings around the state or teleconferencing, or whatever, we will continue to engage the public,” Weatherford said.

Gaetz and Weatherford’s comments came after an often heated redistricting meeting where several voters repeated questions — such as “Where are the maps?” — that have dogged the hearings since they began in Tallahassee in June. But there were also specific suggestions for dealing with the once-a-decade redistricting process when lawmakers turn their attention to the Tampa Bay area.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.