House, Senate will hold 20 hearings on redistrictingby Dara Kam | January 25th, 2011
House and Senate leaders will hold at least 20 public hearings throughout the state regarding the drawing of Florida’s legislative and Congressional seats, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Don Gaetz announced today.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, who yesterday asked to join the lawsuit challenging one of the amendments approved by voters barring lawmakers from drawing districts that favor incumbents or parties, has yet to appoint his members to the House’s redistricting committee.
But Gaetz said that should happen soon and that the House and Senate will hold joint meetings around the state to get the public’s input on the new districts.
Florida lawmakers should be able to begin drawing new districts as early as the end of March when the block-by-block census data is scheduled to be released.
Lawmakers draw the new districts for legislative and Congressional seats every 10 years.
But they’ll have to do it differently this year based on two amendments overwhelmingly approved by voters in November that bar lawmakers from drawing districts that favor incumbents or parties.
Days after he took office, Gov. Rick Scott withdrew the state’s request to the feds to sign off on the amendments. Florida is one of several states that require U.S. Department of Justice approval before any changes are made to voting rights and elections.
Lawmakers fiercely opposed the amendments last year and tried to put their own redistricting amendment on the ballot to counteract Amendments 5 and 6, or the “Fair Districts” amendments, placed on the ballot through the petition initiative process. But the Florida Supreme Court threw out the legislature’s amendment, ruling it was misleading to voters.