For the second day in court, a high-ranking Republican legislator defended how the Florida Legislature drew up political maps for Congress. The redistricting trial now underway in a Tallahassee courtroom could wind up reshaping the state’s political landscape if the groups suing the state can prove the current maps violate the law. Attorneys for the Legislature have denied any wrongdoing, but if the court finds the current districts unconstitutional it could force legislators to redraw them. But so far top legislators remain adamant they have done nothing wrong even when confronted with evidence of consultants getting maps ahead of the public. Florida Senate President Don Gaetz spent several hours on the stand Wednesday. Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, was in charge of the Senate committee that oversaw redistricting in 2011 and 2012.
He was asked about his relationship with GOP consultant Rich Heffley, who was getting paid $10,000 a month by the Republican Party of Florida to help with redistricting. Gaetz said he thought Heffley was getting paid to help with state Senate campaigns. Gaetz said that while he would talk to Heffley he insisted that he did not play a role in redistricting efforts.
But much of the questioning centered on the push by the Senate to increase the number of black voters in a sprawling district that stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando but also bends westward into part of Gainesville.