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Politics

Mike Haridopolos: Senate to Focus on Court's Eight Invalid Districts

March 13, 2012 - 7:00pm

Legislators shouldnt have to completely revamp the map of new Senate districts rejected by the Supreme Court as the head of the Florida Democratic Party contends, the president of the Florida Senate said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith told reporters that, because the state Supreme Court ruled eight of the 40 districts redrawn for the once-a-decade redistricting invalid, the entire state will need to be redrawn.

With legislators back in Tallahassee on Wednesday for the start of what is being called an extraordinary session to correct the problems outlined by the states top court, Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters he expects there to be minimal impact on the neighboring districts that the court deemed valid.

Im confident with just eight seats to draw and the focus on those eight seats, I think more than anything else, were looking at the prescriptions handed down by the courts, and were going to try our best to follow those prescriptions. And, hopefully, no political intrigue follows, Haridopolos said.

If you know 32 have met the criteria, why upset those 32 if you possibly can avoid it?

Smith charged that in order to have the eight districts fit the voter-approved Fair Districts amendments for compactness, following geographic lines or to meeting minority requirements, every district will eventually be affected by shifting lines.

"There is no such thing as tweaking the map," Smith said Tuesday.

The Democrats are expected to submit a map proposal.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said anyone in the Senate proposing new lines, or those who made proposals during the public redistricting process last year, should take care that other districts remain intact.

Additional suggestions, criticism and comments by the public are still being received. The website is still open to receive any suggested plans, Gaetz said.

Gaetz, who chairs the Senate Redistricting Committee, said committee staff should have new lines crafted by Saturday, filed as an amendment to the map, which would first go before the committee on March 20.

Besides the eight districts in the Senate map -- 1, 3, 6, 9, 10, 29, 30, and 34 -- the court objected to the renumbering plan devised by the Senate, declaring the change could allow some currently sitting members to exceed the state constitutional term-limit requirements.

The full Senate is expected to meet again March 22 and March 23 to vote on the new map.

The House, which only has to approve the Senate map, is scheduled to vote on the amendment the week of March 26.

The Senate would have to scramble on March 27 and March 28 if the House rejects the map.

If the Senate is unable to satisfy the court with the new lines, the court would dictate how the lines are laid out.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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