Monday, May 28, 2018
Politics

Redistricting battle returns to Florida Supreme Court

TALLAHASSEE — The Legislature and the League of Women Voters squared off Thursday before the Florida Supreme Court over the behind-the-scenes politics that led to the 2012 remapping of legislative districts by Republican lawmakers.

The Legislature argues that the Supreme Court should assert its "sole and exclusive jurisdiction" over redistricting and direct a lower court to dismiss a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters. That lawsuit challenges the validity of the House and Senate maps the Supreme Court blessed last year.

The league and other groups argue that they should be allowed to press ahead with their lawsuit in circuit court in Tallahassee in an effort to prove that lawmakers drew districts with the intent to protect Republicans and incumbent lawmakers, in violation of the 2010 voter-approved "fair districts" amendments to the Florida Constitution.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, were represented in court by former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, a Miami lawyer who said that only the state's highest court can rule on the validity of the once-a-decade remapping of districts, known as reapportionment.

"The Constitution grants exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court," Cantero said. "We went through this very grueling process for several weeks last year, and that's it until 2020."

Miami lawyer Adam Schachter, representing the League of Women Voters, said the two fair district amendments changed the Constitution to prevent the Legislature from engaging in partisan politics in redrawing districts. He said evidence already unearthed in the lower court case, before Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, suggests the amendments were violated.

For that reason, Schachter argued, the case should be allowed to proceed.

"The Florida voters passed these amendments to change the process, and allowing them access to the courts is the way to effectuate that change," Schachter told justices, adding that if the circuit court case is dismissed, "we will never know" what really happened.

Internal emails show that Republicans and Democrats privately sought to maximize political advantages in redistricting. Republicans used private email accounts, held brainstorming sessions and set up personal "dropboxes." A Democratic consultant, Brad Wieneke, wrote a 2011 email that said in part: "Goal is to increase the number of safe Democratic seats and the number of competitive seats."

During nearly an hour of oral arguments Thursday, the most outspoken justice was Charles Canady, a former Republican state legislator and member of Congress, who was openly skeptical of many of Schachter's arguments and suggested that there has to be a finality to lawsuits challenging redistricting plans.

"We can be litigating these redistricting plans over and over and over again for the next decade," Canady said.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized Sunday in Maine after he experienced low blood pressure and fatigue, a spokesman said. Just after 2 p.m., Jim McGrath, a spokesman for the 93-year-old Bush, said he was awak...
Published: 05/27/18
More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

WASHINGTON — A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of a Colorado baker who would not create a wedding cake for a s...
Published: 05/26/18
Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

I may have cracked the code. Found a way to sell doing the right thing. Discovered a method of persuasion in certain matters of fairness, conscience and the greater good.Like giving our fellow Americans a second chance.When morality-based arguments d...
Published: 05/26/18
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18