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U.S. Justice Department clears Florida redistricting amendments

The U.S. Department of Justice green-lighted a pair of controversial redistricting amendments Tuesday, saying that the agency could find no reason why the Voting Rights Act barred the Florida from using the new standards in the once-a-decade redrawing of the state's political maps.

The usually routine preclearance process was thrust into the headlines earlier this year, when Gov. Rick Scott withdrew the state's application on Amendments 5 and 6, saying it was in keeping with his moratorium on new regulations. Eventually, the Legislature filed an application for the amendments, which were approved in the November elections.

Because of a history of racial discrimination in five counties, Florida has to submit all changes to voting and elections laws to the Justice Department for preclearance.

Democrats and advocates for the "Fair District" amendments, aimed at limiting lawmakers' ability to craft gerrymandered districts based on political considerations, hailed the agency's letter.

Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith suggested that the Justice Department's decision was simply the first step in what is expected to be a contentious battle over the political future of the state.

"While today's approval was a huge step forward, we will continue fighting for a fair redistricting throughout the reappointment process," Smith said.

Alan Grayson eyeing comeback

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson — beloved by liberals, loathed by conservatives — sent an e-mail Monday boasting he raised more than $36,000 in one day from 1,213 donors, the latest sign he's planning a comeback.

"For each one of you who gave, I know you gave for one reason: because I was the kind of congressman that you wanted me to be. And if I ever have the job again, then I will be that kind of congressman again," Grayson wrote.

He recently told the Buzz that he's waiting to see what happens with redistricting. Orlando is likely to get one of Florida's two new congressional seats. Grayson can raise money but his combative rhetoric makes him an easy target. His defeat by Republican Dan Webster was one of the highlights for the GOP as it took control of the House.

Grayson denied his efforts are merely to knock down a substantial campaign debt, which reached $1.6 million at the end of the election. A disclaimer on his website says new money can go toward the debt.

"It's not a cheap thing to maintain an e-mail list with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and send e-mails every week or so, in addition to the TV appearances, the blogging, the occasional out-of-town event, etc.," he told the Buzz. "As to whether I 'return' or not, we'll see."

Scott: Want to run? Avoid me

Scott mentioned last week the run of Republican presidential candidates who have bowed out of the race within days of meeting with him.

He was joking, but his abysmal poll numbers raise the question of what role he — the top-ranking Republican in the country's largest battleground state — will play over the next year to choose President Barack Obama's GOP challenger.

"I was at the correspondents dinner with (Donald) Trump. I was absolutely convinced he was going to run. He didn't," Scott said on Pensacola-based 1620 AM. "I was with Haley Barbour a week before he announced he was not going to run. I guess no one should sit down with me right before they're going to run. Maybe that's it."

Scott appoints energy adviser

Scott has appointed Mary Bane his new special adviser on energy policy.

Bane retired as executive director of the Public Service Commission in December after a tumultuous final year in which her staff admitted to socializing with lobbyists, attending a Kentucky Derby party at the home of a Flower Power & Light lobbyist and staff members of commissioners were found sending text messages to utilities officials.

Bane applied and was nominated for a commissioner position but was rejected by Gov. Charlie Crist, who had criticized the PSC for becoming too close to the utilities it regulates.

The News Service of Florida and Times/Herald staff writers Alex Leary, Michael C. Bender and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

U.S. Justice Department clears Florida redistricting amendments 05/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, June 13, 2011 5:23pm]
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