Cruz admonishes House to conduct all meetings on redistricting in open

Mary Ellen Klas | Tampa Bay Times | 07/13/2015

As Florida legislators and their staff continue to meet in private to discuss when to hold a special session to rewrite the congressional maps, House Democratic Leader designateJanet Cruz has sent a letter of admonishment reminding them that every meeting — including those with the private attorneys whose fees are paid by taxpayers — should be done in public.

"In short, the Legislature has done an incredible disservice to our state,'' Cruz wrote in a letter to House SpeakerSteve Crisafulli.

"It is clear you allowed partisan operatives – at the direction of our own leadership – to violate the imperatives of our state’s Constitution; you failed to keep records and, in fact, destroyed records that would have revealed the misconduct; defended, at enormous cost to taxpayers, the misconduct itself; and, worst of all, forced Floridians to elect their congressional delegation from illegally drawn districts. This conduct flies in the face of the Democratic principles this state and country were built on."

She concluded that "the Republican leadership will never be able to adequately redress these wrongs but you at least owe it to the people of Florida to not repeat them."

Crisafulli was not pleased.

"When a letter is sent to the media before it is sent to me, it is clear that the purpose is political,'' he said via his spokesman. "It's too bad because there is no need for

Rep. Cruz to act in such an aggressive and partisan manner."

Here's her letter:

July 13, 2015

The Honorable Steve Crisafulli

Speaker

The Florida House of Representatives

420 The Capitol

402 South Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

Dear Speaker Crisafulli:

By now I am sure you have had an opportunity to digest the Florida Supreme Court decision invalidating the congressional maps enacted by the Legislature. The Court afforded the Legislature 100 days to draw new congressional districts that are free of the misconduct that infected the previous process. Within its Order, the Court also commented:

“…in order to avoid the problems apparent in this case as a result of many critical decisions on where to draw the lines having been made outside of public view, we encourage the Legislature to conduct all meetings in which it makes decisions on the new map in public and to record any non-public meetings for preservation…”

Based on notions of openness as well as the Court’s specific admonishment, I do not believe that any meetings relating to this process should be conducted in secret. I do not believe the leadership of the Legislature – including staff of leadership, and outside consultants working directly or indirectly with leadership – should be permitted to meet in private to discuss the processes the Legislature intends to implement in compliance with the Court’s directives. Furthermore, I do not believe it appropriate or proper for legislators (or their staff) to meet with “counsel” in secret meetings purportedly cloaked with attorney-client confidentiality. If such meetings have occurred, I would like to be immediately informed of them as any lawyers working on this matter represent the entire Legislature and not just a few select members or staff.

In short, the Legislature has done an incredible disservice to our state. It is clear you allowed partisan operatives – at the direction of our own leadership – to violate the imperatives of our state’s Constitution; you failed to keep records and, in fact, destroyed records that would have revealed the misconduct; defended, at enormous cost to taxpayers, the misconduct itself; and, worst of all, forced Floridians to elect their congressional delegation from illegally drawn districts. This conduct flies in the face of the Democratic principles this state and country were built on.

The deceitful way that this process played out shows nothing but the arrogance of power. In just the last year, the Republican Party’s inability to govern has led to a special session that failed to fix illegal congressional districts, an unconstitutional adjournment of the House during session, a special session triggered by the inability to pass a budget, and now a second special session to again attempt to fix illegally gerrymandered congressional maps.

The Republican leadership will never be able to adequately redress these wrongs, but you at least owe it to the people of Florida to not repeat them. Please agree to make this process totally open and with the will of our people in mind. Floridians deserve better.

Janet Cruz

Leader-Designate

State Representative, District 62 –


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