Courts to draw maps, but how will Legislature respond after redistricting debacle?

Gray Rohrer | Orlando Sentinel | 08/24/2015

TALLAHASSEE - Lawyers for the state House and Senate will be in the same Leon County courtroom Tuesday, but the jury’s still out on whether they will be on the same page.

Judge Terry Lewis has scheduled a hearing Tuesday. He was supposed to hear arguments from the Legislature as to why their newly-drawn congressional districts are in line with the state constitution, and shouldn’t be left up to judges to redraw them yet again.

But after a two-week special session to redraw the districts ended Friday amid acrimony between the two chambers without passing new maps, attorneys for the House and Senate come before Lewis without a product to defend.

House lawyers could argue for the version that chamber passed, the one largely drawn by three legislative staffers trying to abide by a Florida Supreme Court ruling throwing out the prior maps.

Senate lawyers could plead their case for the maps the upper chamber preferred, which involved Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, altering the “base map” developed by staffers to keep all of eastern Hillsborough County in one district.

Or the lawyers for each chamber could just ask the court to draw the districts since they couldn’t pass a final plan.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, wouldn’t say whether Senate and House lawyers were coordinating their arguments before Lewis. Spokespersons for the House did not respond to emails and calls for comment Monday.

Whatever the outcome, Lewis will pass on 27 new Florida congressional districts for review by the Florida Supreme Court in the coming months.

There’s also the possibility federal courts will step in, as U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, is filing suit to prevent the Florida Supreme Court’s mandate to move her district running from Jacksonville to Orlando to run from Tallahassee to Jacksonville instead.

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