TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered the trial court to return to the redistricting drawing board, allowing it to review the rival maps submitted by the House and Senate and choose between them.
The court rejected a request by the plaintiffs to take over the drawing of the congressional map after a two-week special session of the Legislature in August ended in stalemate without an enacted map.
But the high court also opened the door to the state Senate’s request to conduct another special session on redistricting, as long as the work is completed by the deadline it set in July — Oct. 17.
The ruling orders Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to hold a hearing on the “proposed remedial plans” from both the House, the Senate, as well as any amendments offered to them and “the areas of agreement between the legislative chambers.”
“However, the Legislature is not precluded from enacting a remedial plan prior to the time the trial court sets for the hearing,” the court added.
The ruling was signed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, and Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and J.C. Perry. Justice Charles Canady, the most outspoken critic of the court’s previous redistricting rulings, concurred in part and dissented in part in an opinion to which Justice Ricky Polston concurred.
The court repeated its position that the “the burden remains on the House and Senate to justify their chosen configurations.” It ordered the trial court to recommend before Oct. 17 the map that “best fulfills the specific directions in the Court’s July 9, 2015, opinion and all constitutional requirements.”
A week after the Legislature dissolved its special session with no resolution, the impasse started to thaw.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, offered a “compromise” map that attempts to appease many of the concerns the House had with the final Senate map. The next day, House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva responded in a letter to House members that the Senate map had promise.
“If the Senate had offered an amendment like the map filed by Chairman Galvano yesterday afternoon, that map would have been given serious consideration,” Oliva wrote.
Senate President Andy Gardiner also formally requested a meeting with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to discuss convening another special session to discuss the alternate map offered by Galvano.
Next, it will be up to the trial court to set the schedule and give lawmakers a new deadline on when they can provide him with a joint map if they agree to a special session.