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Senators want a counter amendment to 'clarify' the Fair Districts plan

Two years before they begin the process of the once-a-decade redrawing of state political boundaries, the Senate Committee on Reapportionment is prepared to put a counter amendment on the November ballot to "clarify" two amendments  by, which threatens to make their job very difficult.

The Fair Districts campaign has already secured Amendments Five and Six on the ballot, which would impose a series of standards for legislators to follow, including the notion that they draw the districts without benefitting any incumbent.

The committee on Monday asked its staff to propose language that would serve as an additional amendment on the November ballot, to "make sure the spirit of the Fair Districts amendment" is met, said Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, who will be Senate president in 2011. Those goals, he said, "not to lose minority representation and make sure that communities of interest are preserved when tne districts are redrawn.''

This effort to help the Fair Districts effort is not likely to be seen as a maganimous gesture by the organizers of the petition drive that won the ballot placement. The Senate committee is comprised of Republicans like Haridopolos who fear the Fair Districts guidelines will undercut their ability to craft districts to the benefit of Republicans, and African American senators, who worry that the guidelines will reduce minority representation.

"We haven't found a way to apply the standards in a way that would be constitutional,'' said John Gutherie, the Senate committee's staff director.

Not everyone on the committee believes the counter-offensive is needed, since the Fair Districts amendments will need a 60 percent majority to become law.

"Somewhere in the balance, I have a lot of faith and trust in the ballot box and the people of the state of Florida,'' said Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness.