Redistricting witness lists roll in before trial
State Sen. Bill Galvano speaks during a redistricting debate. File photo.

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Two prominent Republican state senators are on the witness list for Thursday’s wrap-up hearing in the congressional redistricting court fight.

Sen. Tom Lee, the chamber’s budget chief, and Sen. Bill Galvano, head of its redistricting panel, are set to testify. The witness list refers them as “will calls,” meaning they will definitely take the stand.

Lee was behind one Senate map that placed all of eastern Hillsborough into the 15th District, currently held by GOP Congressman Dennis Ross. It also redlined Ross out of the very seat he holds by placing his Lakeland home outside the new boundaries.

Lee previously told reporters said he only wanted to keep eastern Hillsborough in one district and had no plans to run for the seat himself. His version includes his hometown of Brandon.

“I have no desire to do anything but continue to serve the people of my community in the Florida Senate,” he said.

Galvano offered a map that put the southern portion of eastern Hillsborough County back into the 16th Congressional District, now represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

The Legislature held a Special Session last month but failed to agree on a new map. House leaders stuck to their version, saying the Senate attempts would be ruled unconstitutional.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and a group of Democratic-leaning voters sued over the current congressional lines drawn after the 2010 census.

Their witness list was short: Political expert Allan Lichtman of American University and map-drawer John O’Neill.

The plaintiffs have said the current map violates a state constitutional prohibition against gerrymandering, the manipulation of political boundaries to favor a particular incumbent or party.

Attorneys for the Legislature later called out the voter-plaintiffs, saying they had consulted with Democratic Party officials and consultants to draw their proposed maps.

“Neither political party holds a monopoly on gerrymandering,” House lawyers wrote in a filing. “The Constitution applies to both parties’ efforts to manipulate the political process and prohibits the efforts of the Democratic Party to infiltrate and influence redistricting.”

The case had worked its way to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled that the current map was “tainted by unconstitutional intent to favor the Republican Party and incumbents.”

The court handed the case back to Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, giving 100 days to come up with a solution. That time runs out in mid-October. Still another special session to redraw the state Senate districts is set for Oct. 19 to Nov. 6.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected].


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