Despite the NAACP's opposition, two top black lawmakers supported a Republican-led constitutional amendment Friday that was drafted in response to two liberal-leaning amendments that would check the Legislature's power as it draws political boundaries.
Sen. Gary Siplin, the black caucus leader, and Sen. Al Lawson, Senate Democratic leader, said they felt the new constitutional amendment protected minority voting rights.
The amendments are all surfacing this year because, in 2012, the Legislature will begin the once-a-decade process of redrawing political legislative and congressional districts to ensure each has an equal population. The amendments would need to be approved by 60 percent of voters.
Siplin said he was concerned that two other constitutional amendments pushed by the group Fair Districts Florida could endanger seats held by black lawmakers in Congress and the Legislature. So he helped write the new proposed amendment to add language regarding "communities of interest'' and minorities to the Constitution.
"I just want to make sure there's language that protects us, people who look like me,'' Siplin said. He cosponsored the amendment with future Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who chairs the Reapportionment Committee, where the proposal passed 9-3, with Democrats opposed.
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