Florida lawmakers are heading back to an expensive, well-worn drawing board. For the second time in three months, the Legislature will convene a special session Monday to redraw political boundaries. The task of redrawing congressional and legislative districts has already cost taxpayers $9.6 million over six years in litigation expenses alone. Lawmakers now face the task of redrawing 40 state Senate districts in a session scheduled to end Nov. 6. This time, legislative leaders are hoping to reach a consensus on new Senate maps that passes muster with the courts. Previous congressional redistricting efforts ended in a stalemate and a rebuke from the Florida Supreme Court for falling afoul of anti-gerrymandering provisions in the constitution.
“The reality is we all know we have a job to do and [Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando] is committed to producing that product as well as I,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.
Crisafulli and Gardiner directed legislative staffers of each chamber to work together to draft new Senate maps in seclusion to avoid suggestions of partisan interference. The staff deliberations were recorded, but Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa complained she wasn’t able to see changes being made to districts in real time.
“It matters because we want to know what are the standards that are in place,” Joyner said. “What’s the big secret?”