“We Do Not Operate Without a Compass”
TALLAHASSEE These were the words Chairman Don Gaetz used during yesterdays pre-session Senate Reapportionment committee meeting to describe the leaderships efforts to-date in the 2012 redistricting process. Prompting Senator Gaetz was Minority Leader Nan Rich who expressed discomfort with the way northwest Floridas district lines were being debated. I just dont know enough about the district to make a decision, she said.
Democratic Minority Whip Bill Montford concurred stating that though he didnt necessarily object to the map of northwest Florida as it was shown in committee, he was concerned that districts were being drawn and negotiated along roads and proposed boundaries he knows nothing about.
Senator Gaetz was quick to respond by reiterating that over 5000 redistricting maps were submitted to the committee by Florida residents as well as 1700 testimonials given during 26 statewide meetings designed to gather public input for the 2012 redistricting process.
Of course we cant know everything about every part of every district, but we have plenty of information submitted and we must do our homework to be as prepared as possible before each committee meeting: We do not operate without a compass.
The goal of pre-session reapportionment committee meetings is to construct a proposed committee bill, or PCB, that will serve as a final rough draft and be more closely scrutinized down the road. Until then the committee agreed that yesterdays meeting would be debated on a broad conceptual level so as to keep to the Senate reapportionment schedule.
With respect to minority districts, a subject sure to be hotly debated, one Democratic Senator stated for the record that minority districts are to be drawn first in any final PCB in order to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. Senator Gaetz acknowledged this as fact and Senator Detert followed by stating that minority district PCBs are heavily incontiguous, or not compact, and thereby force surrounding districts like hers to be incontiguous as well, thus inviting criticisms of gerrymandering.
With the Governor and other top Legislative officials already indicating that next years Legislative session will be dominated in part by redistricting, pre-session committee meetings are shaping the battle to come.
Future pre-session committee meetings and all proposed district and statewide maps under consideration are posted on the Florida Senates website.