Redistricting shouldn’t disrupt lawmakers’ holidays, outside the handwringing and uncertainly about their own futures. But Sen. Ray Rodrigues wants the process rolling forward come January.
The Senate Reapportionment Committee chair said he will file two placeholder bills before Jan. 11 that will serve as the legislative home for a new Senate map and a Senate-proposed map of Florida’s now-28 congressional districts. That will give time for lawmakers to respond accordingly ahead of a Jan. 13 meeting of the full committee.
“Early in the week, the select subcommittees will have the opportunity to further review staff-produced maps, public submissions or comments sponsored by a Senator, and to hear additional public testimony before finalizing their recommendations,” Rodrigues wrote in a memo to all senators. “Following these meetings, in consultation with counsel, I will review the recommendations of the select subcommittees and offer amendments to the two placeholders bills for review, discussion, and consideration by the full committee on Thursday, January 13, 2022.”
The latest development in Senate mapmaking came with the release of four draft congressional maps and five draft Senate maps.
Notably, the House Redistricting Committee staff has since released two significantly different congressional drafts of its own. Outside observers have generally praised the Senate drafts, while criticizing the House versions as unfairly favoring Republicans. The GOP controls both chambers of the Florida Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion.
Rodrigues, an Estero Republican, said anyone who thinks changes must be made to drafts should act sooner rather than later.
“Now is the time for Senators to finalize and submit any maps they wish to offer,” he wrote. “Likewise, staff have been directed to consider the feedback and guidance Senators have given at prior meetings and consider it through the lens of the overall directives as well as all applicable federal and state legal standards, and to spend time looking for improvements and consistency in the application of the various trade-offs presented in the maps.
“Any alterations that are proposed, whether as guidance and feedback to the staff or as an amendment offered by a Senator, should adhere to the constitutional principles and apply them consistently throughout the state. Therefore, amendments must be drafted and presented as a complete map.”
He also urged senators to propose any changes well in advance of committee meetings so the public can see the work.
Rodrigues’ memo also seemed to cement that there will be no active effort to collect public input in the field.
Democrats have criticized the decision in the House and Senate not to hold a public meeting tour around the state, as has happened in previous redistricting processes. Rodrigues said any Senator is free to gather input how they choose, but they will be the conduit to the Reapportionment Committee or dedicated subcommittees working on legislative and congressional maps.
“Members of the public have been and continue to submit plans and comments to floridaredistricting.gov. If you are interested in reviewing public submissions and comments, these plans can be viewed on the ‘Submitted Plans’ and ‘Get Involved’ pages of the website,” Rodrigues wrote. “As previously communicated, if you have solicited virtual public testimony from your constituents and wish all or portions of such testimony to be considered by the committee, you must submit the recording of the virtual testimony and the required appearance forms to the committee.”
Rodrigues also included an oft-repeated warning that lawmakers involved in the process should insulate themselves from partisan lobbying and undue influence, and that records for all communication should be kept in the likely event the redistricting process must be defended in court.