Inside the Lines: Tampa Bay hearings will highlight difficult moves in urban areas

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When they were beginning a series of redistricting meetings across the state back in June, the chairs of the two committees told reporters they had made one thing abundantly clear: There would be no special protection for incumbents, writes Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

“I’ve told them that the district you live in right now no longer exists, and that the Legislature is starting with a blank slate,” said House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said he took things a step farther.

“I’ve told our senators that I don’t even want to know where they live,” Gaetz said. “And I’ve told our professional staff on the reapportionment committee, ‘Do not produce any map that shows where incumbents live.'”

Some of that is based on the new reality of redrawing the state’s political boundaries under the “Fair Districts” amendments approved by voters last year. The standards are aimed at limiting partisan gerrymandering, and they explicitly bar making changes to districts with the intent of helping or hurting an incumbent lawmaker.

And it could have one of its more pronounced effects in the Tampa Bay area, where the redistricting road show heads next week. A dramatic shift in the population over the last decade could imperil some incumbents, forcing them to square off against fellow sitting lawmakers in the 2012 elections.

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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.