The House of Representatives panel charged with redrawing the state’s political boundaries will unveil a slate of options for the state’s congressional and state House districts Tuesday, setting the stage for discussions that could affect the balance of power in Florida for a decade.
House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is expected to unveil several versions of each map at a meeting Tuesday afternoon. Members of the three subcommittees overseeing the congressional, House and Senate plans will then hold meetings Thursday to consider the alternatives for the once-a-decade redistricting process that follows the decennial Census.
House leaders have been relatively tight-lipped about what the maps will look like, but the options will almost certainly be compared to maps released last week by the state Senate — where a comparison is possible.
The maps will also reveal how the House views the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments approved last year by voters in a referendum.
Already, Weatherford has said the House will start off with the maps the Senate proposes for its own districts — following the example of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, which has deferred to the House to come up with the first draft of maps for that chamber. But the letter from Weatherford added a twist that so far hasn’t been brought up by the Senate.
“In addition, the Senate Redistricting Subcommittee will workshop a State Senate map that was submitted by the Florida State Conference of the NAACP,” Weatherford wrote. “Therefore, … Tuesday, we will be releasing options for Florida’s Congressional and State House maps only.”
But the NAACP maps have drawn criticism even from members of the Democratic Party, a frequent ally of the organization that sometimes finds its interests diverging from the NAACP’s when it comes to redistricting.
“Basically, they are retreads,” said Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston. “… They pretty much follow what was done 10 years ago. And I’m sorry but what was done 10 years ago, to my way of thinking, will not stand the muster of Amendments 5 and 6.”
The NAACP maps appeared aimed at preserving minority voters’ ability to select candidates of their choice in a handful of heavily black and Hispanic districts around the state — something that often leaves surrounding districts whiter and more Republican. But it also mirrors the past maps with moves like preserving a Senate district in South Florida that winds practically from the Gulf Coast on one side to the Atlantic Coast on the other.
Assuming that the House largely goes along with the maps approved by the state Senate and vice versa, the only major differences to be resolved could come on the state’s congressional maps. However those differences are resolved, Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz said recently he does not expect a House-Senate conference committee to be appointed to hammer out a compromise.
Gov. Rick Scott, whose signature is required on the congressional maps, said last week he had not yet reviewed the Senate’s proposal. Scott isn’t required to sign the legislative maps.
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida