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Politics

House Panel Takes Up Redistricting

April 14, 2010 - 6:00pm


With Floridians due to vote on two redistricting amendments in November, a House panel met Thursday to tackle the issue at both the congressional and state levels by pushing another amendment.

The amendments already on the ballot, sponsored by Fair Districts Florida, would change how the Legislature will draw up congressional and legislative seats. They prohibit the Legislature from creating districts to benefit or hinder an incumbent or a political party and require the districts to be compact.

Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, introduced a separate amendment to the state constitution in the House Select Policy Council on Strategic & Economic Planning. The amendment asks the Legislature to follow federal guidelines when creating districts, and she said it clarifies the Fair Districts Florida ones and is not in opposition to them.

There is a certain confusion about amendments already on the ballot, said Hukill. This measure will add clarity to the amendment.

Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, led Democratic questioning of Hukill, specifically demanding how Fair Districts Floridas amendments were confusing.

Hukill said that Fair Districts Floridas amendments were confusing on minority-access districts, questions about compactness and prioritization.

Thurston pressed Hukill on the issue, asking numerous times how the bill clarified the amendments Floridians will be voting on.

It will protect racial and language minorities who take part in the political process, said Hukill. She said that she did not know if her legislation would mean there would be a change in the number of legislative seats held by minorities.

Representatives from organized labor and the League of Women Voters testified against Hukills proposed amendment.

Drawing on his experience as one of the drafters of the Sunshine Amendment backed by Reubin Askew and experienced in redistricting since the 1970s, John French from Associated Industries of Florida said that the Fair Districts measures created confusion and said he backed Hukills legislation.

As Amendments 5 and 6 are currently created, were headed into court, said Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, echoing comments made by incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island.

Hukills proposed amendment passed the council by a 11-5 party-lines vote and is now headed to the House floor.

The council unanimously passed a measure starting the 2012 legislative session in January as opposed to the usual March start in order to tackle redistricting.

The council also released its My Florida Census site, which will help the federal government count as many residents of the state as possible. The site can be found at www.myfloridacensus.gov.

We found 18 streets in Osceola County that the census did not account for, said Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. The areas of concern are areas of new construction.

Cannon said the state estimates at least 98,000 Floridians are in danger of being missed by the census.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or (850) 727-0859.

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