Redistricting: What’s next? Part 3

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It’s Special Session Eve and all through the House, politicians are stirring, but they must be as quiet as a mouse.

That’s because Redistricting Committee Chairs Bill Galvano and Richard Corcoran has issued a gag order to staff not to discuss how new congressional districts are being crafted.

Legislative staff members have been told not to discuss the upcoming map-redrawing process. That could be a nod to testimony during the recent redistricting trial that revealed details about secret meetings, email exchanges and map-swapping among Republican Party operatives and legislative staff.

“I have additionally directed our staff to refrain from discussing their map-drawing efforts with anyone outside of the Legislature except our legal counsel and not to share their work product with any outside interests in advance of the public release of the remedial plan,” Galvano said in the memo.

While issuing his lip-tightening advisory, Galvano also filed a placeholder bill (SB 2-A) Tuesday for the new district lines.

Any member interested in submitting a proposed map better be prepared to defend its genesis. Corcoran said that:

“(A)ny member wishing to offer a plan or amendment should be prepared to explain in committee or on the House floor the identity of every person involved in drawing, reviewing, directing, or approving the proposal; the criteria used by the map drawers; and the sources of any data used in the creation of the map other than the data contained in MyDistrictBuilder.”

Obviously, any remedial map will focus on addressing Judge Terry Lewis’ issues with Congressional District 5, which is represented by Corrine Brown. How CD 5 became such a gerrymandered district “is a matter of history,” writes Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida:

“Because the land was prone to flooding, it was only natural that the poorest Floridians, including freed slaves, would settle there,” Brown said last week in one of many statements her office has issued defending the district. “Segregated housing patterns, demanded by restrictive covenants and enforced by Florida courts, kept the African-American population together well into the mid-20th Century, which is the central reason why these communities are segregated into those residential patterns across the state.”

… Ironically, Brown’s district was born as the result of a lawsuit — a federal case filed in 1992 under the Voting Rights Act.

Want more history? Read this blog post on James Madison’s role in the origins of gerrymandering.

Madison is often considered one of the fathers of modern American conservatism. He is also closely and oddly connected to the issue of the day: gerrymandered congressional districts.

… Despite its flaws, he argued, this nation would survive, but we must be wary of factionalism. “Factionalism” is the notion that someone would put his own special interests above that of the nation.  He feared, almost to a point of obsession, partisanship and self-serving political motivations that pitted one group against another.

One would therefore assume that there is some grave spinning at Montpelier this week.

When you’re down with the history, get ready for the last day for lawmakers to raise money for a week; legislators are prohibited from raising money during special session. There are at least three fundraisers lined up for today in Tallahassee. The details are here.

Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Reps. Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva are hosting three separate fundraising receptions on Wednesday, each beginning at 11:30 a.m. in the Governor’s Club on 202 South Adams Street Tallahassee.

One final note, this one about money, which never sleeps. Two committees linked to incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner have paid nearly $150,000 during the past month to a Gainesville political-consulting firm embroiled in a legal fight about redistricting records, according to finance reports submitted to the state, reports the News Service of Florida:

The committees, known as the “Space Coast Liberty Caucus” and “The Committee for a Better Florida,” have paid $148,510 to Data Targeting, Inc., since July 9 for what are described as advertising expenses. The committees’ websites say they are associated with Gardiner, who is slated to become Senate president after the November elections. Data Targeting, Inc., has been at the center of a battle about whether records it produced should have been introduced in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of congressional districts approved by lawmakers in 2012. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis struck down the map, which has necessitated a special legislative session starting Thursday. During the case, Lewis used the records, but they have remained shielded from public view. The records issue is now at the Florida Supreme Court, and media companies have filed a brief arguing that the documents should be unsealed.

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.