Senate President Mike Haridopolos rolled out the Constitution to defend the legislative redistricting schedule that is designed to conduct hearings first and draw maps later. Advocates for Fair Districts Now, which pushed to get the constitutional amendments on the ballot to set up new redistricting standards, said today that the hearings are a charade since the public will have no maps to comment on and legislators are barred from discussing their concerns.
Haridopolos referred to the schedule written into the state Constitution that says the legislature will start its regular session in January during a redistricting year "to speed up the process." But Fair District advocate say there is no reason the legislature can't start earlier and, failure to put maps together sooner, risks confusion on election day since candidates may have to run in current districts if the courts haven't finished their legal review or if legal challenges stall the process.
The Senate president, who campaigned against Amendments 5 and 6 as unworkable and attempted to derail them with an alternative amendment that was thrown off the ballot, provoked the Fair Districts advocates again in his statement.
"Since the Fair Districts Now group is so concerned about redistricting, I once again invite them to submit their own maps so everybody can see their concept of a ‘fair district,’ Haridopolos said. "If the past is any indication though, they’ll come up with an excuse not to participate in this important process."
But Dierdre McNab of the Florida League of Women Voters said they have been asked before by legislators but it's the politicians' job to draw the maps according to the new standards, not the public's. "They have asked us to do it and we see that as an abbrogation of them doing their job,'' she said. "We call on them to do their job."
Here's Haridopolos' full response:
"Beginning next week the Legislature will hold 26 public hearings across the state to allow Floridians to provide input into how those lines should be redrawn. Legislators will take information from those 85 hours of public hearings into consideration as the new congressional, Senate, and House maps are drawn. All concerned individuals or organizations are invited to participate in these public hearings.
"The once-a-decade process of redistricting is a constitutional obligation that we take seriously. We will work diligently to ensure all Floridians’ viewpoints are heard and draw maps that comply with state and federal law.
"Since the Fair Districts Now group is so concerned about redistricting, I once again invite them to submit their own maps so everybody can see their concept of a ‘fair district.’ If the past is any indication though, they’ll come up with an excuse not to participate in this important process."