The Republican Party of Florida’s Traveling Medicine & Redistricting Hearing Show pulled in & out of Palm Beach & Broward Counties yesterday, kicking up dust, taking prolonged testimony from weary, woebegone citizens, offering the distant hope of better Election Days, Ways & Means…coming soon…well, someday…somewhere over the rainbow…sort of. Maybe.
Truth be told, the RPOF continued its prolonged exercise in diversionary tactics, so seemingly well-customized to circumvent the will of the voting public that in 2010 passed “Fair Districts” Amendments 5 & 6, Citizens Initiatives meant to put an end to unfairly drawn or “gerrymandered” voting districts in the Sunshine State.
While most of the grassroots grief and media coverage generated by these latest hearings focused on the committee leadership’s snail’s-pace implementation timetable and unwillingness to present its own redistricting maps for public consideration, another Very Big Story failed to get the attention it deserved.
The story is that the FL House, tasked with implementing the Fair Districts Amendments, has simultaneously spent about a million dollars – so far – on a lawsuit to declare Amendment 6 (congressional redistricting) unconstitutional. Talk about “A House Divided…” Talk about cognitive dissonance.
Taxpayers already covering the cost of countless public hearings that the RPOF claims are needed to implement the new laws are also footing the House legal bill for trying to overturn one of them. And it wouldn’t be Florida without an “adding insult to injury” topper, so – tax dollars also fund the Attorney General Office’s defense of that lawsuit.
Seems like there ought to be a law against all that crazy conflict of interest, no? No.
What there is, is a still unmet request for specific details of House expenditures trying to get Amendment 6 thrown out. Stand-up State Representative Scott Randolph (D- Orlando) has been publicly pushing House Speaker Dean Cannon for full disclosure, to no avail so far. So we’re still waiting to find out exactly how every penny has been spent, and if there has been any private interest “support” of the effort.
At yesterday’s Redistricting Hearing in Boca Raton, the committee’s House Vice-Chair, Stephen Precourt (R-Orlando) maintained that those legal expenses have been covered exclusively by House “contingency” funds. When I caught up with him after the hearing, here’s how he explained it (Click here to see the video):
“You set up a little bit of extra money in a contingency fund, whether it’s for changing the carpet, buying broken computers and replacing them, or in our case, there’s a lot of different lawsuits – this is just one of them – on different issues, that we have to be in a position to participate in. So that’s our contingency fund.”
Well, okay then. We shall see, and time will tell. Guess we’ll just have to hope that Redistricting, left in the hands of RPOF politicians like Mr. Precourt, goes a little bit better than that “buying broken computers and replacing them” thing.