The week that was in Florida politics: District maps get first look, A&M tragedy examined

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Blame it on the after-effects of Thanksgiving turkey, Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but lawmakers and state officials largely took a pass this week as the capital city was quiet in preparation for a busy pre-holiday committee week that starts early Monday, reports Michael Peltier and Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

But a recent tragedy captured the city’s attention, and that spilled over into the Capitol. Florida A&M University officials spent the week in full damage-control mode following the possible hazing death of a drum major who died aboard a band bus last month in Orlando, a tragedy some say they saw coming, which has brought unwanted international attention to the famous — now infamous — Marching “100.”

The death of Robert Champion, a 26-year-old band leader who died after what police say appears to have been a hazing following the annual Florida Classic football clash between FAMU and Bethune Cookman, has brought the media spotlight again to the historically black college that has over the years been forced to confront similar reports of initiation rites gone wrong.

Meanwhile, with lawmakers back in their districts, Republican-led efforts to redraw the state’s political boundaries moved forward as the chambers continued efforts to comply with the once-a-decade responsibility made more interesting this time around by a pair of constitutional requirements put in place by voters in November to take some of the politics out of an inherently political process.

REDISTRICTING PLANS EMERGE

Lawmakers, members of Congress and political junkies spent much of the slow week trying to read between the lines of redistricting proposals released Monday by the Senate Reapportionment Committee. The rough draft of the new political boundaries, crafted by the committee’s staff, represented the first official proposals in the once-a-decade redistricting process.

“Months ahead of past redistricting schedules and after the most open, transparent and interactive process in Florida history, the Senate committee has produced a product which is fair, sensible and faithful to the law,” Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in a news release accompanying the maps.

Democrats were not as welcoming of the state Senate and congressional plans, the first drawn under the anti-gerrymandering Fair District amendments approved by voters last year.

“Today, Florida Republicans have taken a state — which experts have long considered one of the most malapportioned states in the country — and worsened it,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith. “In doing so, they have chosen to thwart the will of 63-percent of Florida voters by proposing maps that are aimed at incumbent protection and partisan advantage — the very things which Florida

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.