TALLAHASSEE — The leaders of Florida’s House and Senate on Thursday announced what they know so far about how they plan to redraw the state’s legislative districts and congressional seats next year.
The plan, as laid out in memos to members of the Legislature on Thursday, includes creating a website for the public to view proposed maps, create maps of their own and submit input.
It includes stern warnings to lawmakers not to discuss the redistricting process outside of the formal committee process, in an attempt to keep legal challenges to a minimum.
But it does not say which lawmakers will sit on the redistricting committees, which could start meeting as soon as next month. And it does not say whether the public will have any face-to-face input beyond making the trek to Tallahassee during the legislative session, a commute that is unrealistic for most Floridians.
That would be different from the last redistricting process, a decade ago, when leaders of the House and Senate spent a summer traveling the state seeking input from the public about how best to draw the maps to provide the fairest representation to their communities.
When asked whether there were any plans for such travel, spokespersons for the House and Senate said that more details on the process would be forthcoming.
The leaders of the House and Senate have named Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Rep. Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, as heads of their chamber’s respective redistricting committees. Additional subcommittees and the members should be announced around Labor Day, House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, wrote Thursday.
Lawmakers will draw the proposed boundaries for legislative and congressional seats following the Legislature’s typical bill process, with amendments and votes taken at committee stops until the full House and Senate vote. Unlike a bill, Gov. Ron DeSantis cannot veto legislative maps, although the Florida Supreme Court can invalidate them.
The process of redrawing political boundaries to account for population growth has massive political implications, with the potential for years of legal challenges.
During the last redistricting process, political operatives were drawing their own maps behind the scenes and having them submitted by members of the public, under fake names, through the public portal. The process worked, and the maps drawn by the operatives were enacted into law and remained in force for the 2012 and 2014 election cycles — until the courts threw them out for violating the state Constitution.
In their memos on Thursday, the leaders of the House and Senate warned lawmakers to avoid doing anything that would jeopardize the process.
“Senators should take care to insulate themselves from interests that may intentionally or unintentionally attempt to inappropriately influence the redistricting process,” Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, wrote.
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Sprowls discouraged representatives from speaking about the process to anyone who is in, or potentially seeking, state or federal office.
“Situations where you comment on your personal preferences or ambitions for a given district, give your opinion regarding an incumbent, or even making satirical remarks should be avoided,” Sprowls wrote.
Correction: The governor can veto congressional maps passed by the Legislature, but not legislative maps. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the governor’s power to veto proposed boundaries for legislative and congressional seats.