Florida Senate won't appeal ruling on new districts

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 01/20/2016

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.

The Senate had 30 days from the Dec. 30 decision by Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds to appeal the new map to the Florida Supreme Court. But Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Redistricting Chief Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said they would not pursue a challenge.

“President Gardiner and Chair Galvano have been meeting with the legal team and discussing the Senate’s options for the last few weeks,” said Katie Betta, a Gardiner spokeswoman.

“As a result of these conversations, Chair Galvano’s recommendation to President Gardiner was that the Senate not move forward with an appeal of Judge Reynolds’ decision. President Gardiner accepted that recommendation.”

The move caps a three-year clash between lawmakers and the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause over the Senate boundaries, extending the once-a-decade redistricting process that follows the U.S. Census.

The sides also fought over new congressional boundaries in a case recently decided when the Florida Supreme Court set new district lines. That ruling is being appealed in federal court by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, on grounds that it violates the Voting Rights Act.

The Senate decision, however, appears final.

In Palm Beach County, the new Senate map keeps four senators representing the county, including a redrawn version of the district now held by Senate President-designate Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

But it also sets up a potential primary fight between Sens. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Joe Abruzzo, D-Wellington, who are both eyeing the same district.

A western Palm Beach County district, including the Glades area, includes most of Abruzzo’s current district. But it also loops south in Boca Raton and Broward County, taking in some voters Sachs currently serves.

The central county district now held by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, loses Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach, but keeps Lake Worth and surrounding communities. The remaining county Senate seat would include West Palm Beach and continue north along the coast to the Martin County line.

Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, and Emily Slosberg, an attorney and political consultant whose father is Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, are running for that north county seat.

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