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Florida Legislature won't appeal redistricting ruling; sets districts for 2016 election


The Florida Legislature is giving up the fight and will not contest a court ruling that redraws all of the state’s 40 state senate districts for the 2016 election cycle.

State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he told Senate President Andy Gardiner on Wednesday that the Legislature should let court-ordered maps go into effect, even though he says there were legal issues that were open to appeal.

“My recommendation is for us not to appeal, and the Senate President has agreed,” Galvano said.

The decision leaves the state with a new map that will recast Florida's political landscape, giving millions of people new representation and bolstering Democratic chances in 2016. Voters in South Tampa, East Hillsborough, and large portions of Pasco County will get new state senators, as a result of the map. In Miami-Dade in casts incumbents against one another in potential new districts in a presidential election cycle.

Democratic party analysts say the new maps are fairer and gives them a better chance of winning additional seats in a Florida Senate that has been dominated by the Republican Party for most of the last two decades.

The decision not to appeal also ends a tumultuous process that cost taxpayers over $11 million, led to four trials, three special sessions and eight rulings from the Florida Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge George Reynolds in Tallahassee ruled in late December that he was rejecting the Senate’s latest attempts to draw district lines and turning instead to a map backed by a coalition of votings rights groups, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause. 

Galvano said after that ruling that the Legislature was considering appealing the decision or even requesting a re-hearing of the case. But Galvano said Wednesday that he’s ready to accept the court ruling and move forward with the new districts in place for the 2016 election cycle. He said the issues he has can be addressed in future redistrictings, which happen ever 10 years after the U.S. Census is completed.

The Legislature has been trying -- and failing -- to draw new district lines since 2012. But those maps and subsequent redistricting efforts have been struck down by the courts after the League of Women Voters and Common Cause challenged them in court saying they violated the fair districts provision of the state constitution, which mandates that lawmakers draw political boundaries without the intent to favor incumbents or political parties.