Legislature to convene to draw up new Senate lines Oct. 19-Nov. 6

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Although the Florida Supreme Court has yet to rule on the legality of state Senate districts that a coalition of groups contend were drawn unconstitutionally in 2012, Florida’s political leaders said today that the court’s ruling earlier this month to invalidate eight of the state’s 27 congressional districts guarantees that they will have to redraw state Senate lines before next year’s elections.

Therefore, writes Senate President Andy Gardiner and Houses Speaker Steve Crisafulli, “The Senate has entered into a stipulation and consent judgment with the Plaintiffs and agreed the enacted Senate map will be revised prior to the 2016 primary and general elections.”

That special sssion will now take place Oct. 19-Nov. 6, and will be the third such special session of 2015.

House and Senate leaders previously scheduled a special session Aug. 10-21 to redraw the congressional boundary lines for the third time since 2012, but they previously concluded that would not include the Senate lines. They previously met in June for 20 days after failing to approve a budget at the end of the regular session in late April.

A trial over the Senate map was scheduled to begin on Sept. 28 in Leon County Circuit Court. The plaintiffs, who include the League of Women Voters and Common Cause, have stated that 28 of the 40 Senate districts were designed to favor incumbents and the Republican Party, violating the Fair Districts amendments to the state Constitution passed by voters in 2010.

As Florida Politics reported hours after the Supreme Court’s ruling invalidating the eight congressional districts, Clearwater state Sen. Jack Latvala immediately moved forward and contacted the Division of Elections office to set up an account to run in 2016 for his Senate District 20 seat. The crafty lawmaker, who had already been subpoenaed in the Senate case, realized that his district would need to be redrawn, and thus compel him to run again in 2016 after having just won a four-year term last November.

Gardiner and Crisafulli write that after a base map is introduced, “every member will have a full opportunity to review, discuss, debate, and offer amendments to the base map. Any member wishing to offer a redistricting bill or amendment should recall the technical specifications used during the 2014 special session.

The legislative leaders also noted that the Florida Supreme Court made recommendations in its decision that the Legislature make decisions on the new map in public and to record any non-public meetings for preservation. “While every citizen of Florida has a guaranteed constitutional right to petition our government, we encourage members to be circumspect and to avoid all communications that reflect or might be construed to reflect an intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent,” they write.

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.