A last-ditch effort to keep the courts from drawing state Senate districts collapsed Thursday, as senators voted down a plan proposed by the House and a special session called to draw the lines crashed to an end. On a 23-16 vote, the Senate killed the House version of the map (SJR 2-C) and any hope that the Legislature would decide the lines. Nine Republicans bucked their party’s leadership and joined all 14 Democrats in opposing the plan. The redistricting issue will go to Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds, who likely will consider maps from the Legislature and voting-rights organizations that sued to overturn the current districts, with Reynolds ultimately recommending a plan to the Florida Supreme Court.
The implosion of the session marked another embarrassment for legislative Republicans, who have seen three sessions fail in 2015. The regular session ended in an acrimonious budget battle between the House and Senate that had to be resolved in a special session, and another meeting called to draw new lines for congressional districts also ended without an agreement.
This time, instead of blaming each other, GOP leaders blamed a pair of voter-approved constitutional amendments that ban political gerrymandering in legislative and congressional redistricting. Lawmakers argued that the “Fair Districts” amendments had become an almost unworkable maze of sometimes contradictory standards that ignored the need to draw together communities with common interests.