The holidays are shaping up to be a busy time for Florida lawmakers. With the annual legislative session starting two months early, they're focusing on the task of redrawing the state's political maps, but the process is already behind schedule.
After six months of public hearings, committee meetings and plenty of promises, a critical redistricting deadline has come and gone.
There are no maps on the table, and
Thursday was supposed to be the day the republicans who control the mapmaking process in the House were going to come out with their plan for carving out legislative and congressional district boundaries. Well, that didn't happen.
Leaders say they need until next month to get things right, but now democrats argue the real issue is republicans are having a tough time trying to draw maps with enough GOP-leaning districts to maintain their overwhelming majority.
That could be, given two voter-mandated amendments that put tough new limits on just how districts can look.
"I am just totally mystified as to why we have no maps today, and continuously, the public is saying 'what is going on', you hear all kinds of rumors of, somebody saw a map and they didn't like it, so that's why they cancelled everything," said Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach.
The democrats are also complaining about what they call wasted taxpayer dollars - the money they have to spend to travel here, which for many lawmakers can be well over a thousand dollars a week.
Delaying the redistricting process means candidates from both parties would have less campaign time because many still don't know which district they'll be in.
As for travel expenses, republicans say the scheduled meetings coincide with committee weeks. That's when all 160 legislators are required to be in Tallahassee anyway.