TALLAHASSEE — New legislative lines in the once-a-decade redistricting process are headed to the Florida Supreme Court, while a new congressional map remains on hold.
The Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve a plan (SJR 100) that sets new boundaries for the 40 Senate seats and 120 state House seats.
“We can and should be very proud of the work we’ve done here today,” Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said. “And now we’ll see if the courts are equally as proud.”
Attorney General Ashley Moody has 15 days to file a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a ruling on the validity of the redrawn legislative districts. The court will have 30 days to issue an order, with opponents and the supporters of the maps able to file briefs.
The Senate last month voted 34-3 to approve the new Senate lines. The House voted 77-39 on Wednesday to approve a combined bill that included the Senate lines and a House map. That set up Thursday’s mostly procedural vote in which the Senate signed off on the combined bill.
Opponents have raised concerns that Florida’s growing minority populations haven’t been adequately addressed in the district changes, which likely will maintain Republican control of the Legislature into the 2030s.
The maps could lead to Republican control of the Senate slipping by one seat and the House by seven seats, based on voting patterns in the 2020 election.
Opponents pointed to the House map maintaining 18 protected Black districts and 12 protected Hispanic districts, while the Senate kept the number of Hispanic districts at four. They contended that did not match up with growing minority populations.
Democrats in both chambers have said they expect the maps to be challenged regardless of the findings of the state Supreme Court.
While the legislative maps moved forward Thursday, work on the congressional map has paused.
Gov. Ron DeSantis this week asked the Supreme Court for an advisory opinion about his effort to revamp what is now Congressional District 5, which sprawls from Jacksonville to west of Tallahassee. The court set a noon Monday deadline for “interested persons” to submit briefs.
The district is held by Congressman Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, and was designed to help with minority representation.
The Senate has approved a proposed congressional map that would follow the same general design of the current District 5. The House has not produced a congressional map, but House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said Wednesday that DeSantis’ request was “appropriate.”
The new legislative and congressional districts need to be in place before qualifying for this year’s elections begins June 13.
By Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
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Tampa Bay Times Florida Legislature coverage
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