Former legislative leaders Pruitt, McKay and Thompson weigh into redistricting fight

Aaron Deslatte | Orlando Sentinel | 08/14/2013

TALLAHASSEE — Three of the Florida Legislature's past leaders are weighing into the fight over the state's redrawn political maps, arguing lawmakers would be harmed if they are forced to testify under oath about whether they gerrymandered districts last year.

Former House Speaker James Harold Thompson, former Senate President Ken Pruitt, and former Senate President John McKay asked the Florida Supreme Court on Monday for permission to file a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of the Florida House, which is battling with the Fair Districts backers over re-drawn Senate and congressional districts. On Wednesday, the court agreed to hear them out.

Florida's 2010 anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments bar lawmakers from drawing lines that intentionally help incumbents or political parties, which Fair Districts backers argue is what happened. But the sides have been fighting for a year over whether lawmakers will have to testify about their motives under oath. The high court will likely decide that issue this fall, ahead of a trial in Leon County Circuit Court that could get started sometime early next year.

The three former presiding officers — two Republicans and one Democrat — wrote Monday that "compelled examination of legislators under oath ... concerning their actions, thoughts, motives, or communications in the lawmaking process would subject legislators to improper influence and manipulation and chill the free, robust, and confident debate and discussion of issues among legislators and with constituents, to the injury of the democratic process and the public good."

But the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and other critics have argued since last year that they need access to lawmakers themselves in order to examine the Legislature's redistricting handiwork, which they allege still intentionally preserves GOP majorities, in violation of the non-political requirements of the Fair Districts amendment to the state Constitution. They have been seeking to gather evidence in emails and testimony of lawmakers to make their case.

Legal battle over state Senate districts coming to an end

TALLAHASSEE - A contentious battle over Florida state senate districts is coming to an end. read more »

Senate won't appeal redistricting ruling

Clearing the way for elections later this year with a map that could boost Democrats' numbers in the Senate, Republican leaders decided Wednesday not to appeal a Leon County judge's ruling setting districts for the chamber's 40 seats. read more »

Florida Senate won't appeal ruling on new districts

TALLAHASSEE — Senate leaders said Wednesday that they will not appeal last month's court ruling that sided with a voters' coalition in setting new district boundaries. read more »

Florida Legislature won't appeal redistricting ruling

TALLAHASSEE — 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. read more »

Editorial: Republicans should accept redistricting defeat and drop talk of appeals

For a brief moment last week it appeared the Florida Legislature had come to its senses and was willing to accept a judge's ruling on the boundaries for new state Senate districts. read more »

Renumbering state Senate districts triggers political scramble

TALLAHASSEE — It may sound like a simple process, but the Florida Senate's random renumbering of all its districts statewide Tuesday touched off a series of complicated twists that one key lawmaker said only adds more chaos to a continuing redistricting saga. read more »