After a week of review, the Senate redistricting committee received no member amendments to its two redistricting plans -- for the state Senate and Congress -- but the public had an opportunity to provide input through the Internet and about 500 responses were received.
Committee chairman Don Gaetz said the committee “met every deadline” and its “work has belied all the cynics and the critics.” Meanwhile, the two Senate maps appear headed for swift approval. Gaetz announced that the committee will vote on the maps on Jan. 11 and bring it to the floor for a final vote on Jan. 17.
If the House can match that schedule, legislators hope they are on track to complete their maps in the first month of the 60-day session, submit it to the Florida Supreme Court for review and, if rejected have time to rewrite the maps before session is over.
The feedback was split, Senate staff said, with most of the criticism focused on the snake-like shaped Congressional District 3, a very divided Polk County and complaints about the districts drawn for the Tampa Bay, Orlando, Charlotte County and the Space Coast regions. Many people called to commend the committee for keeping more counties together than the existing districts and a handful of citizens appeared at the meeting to compliment the committee on an open process.
Karl Nurse of Tampa Bay wrote in to complain that the Senate maps are “jumping over Tampa Bay” to wrap together two Senate districts and one congressional district and urged the committee to start over.
James Gilman of Duval County expressed the comments of many when he complained that he supported the Fair Districts amendments but didn’t like the meandering, eight-county proposed congressional District 3. “I would say you did not listen to the voters and I’m quite displeased,’’ he said. “If anything, it looks more gerrymandered than before.”
Kim Newlin of Miami wrote that she expected the maps “to be more even and concise” although, she said, they were improved over existing districts but “had a ways to go.”
Lee Ann Thomas, the assistant county manager for Polk County, said the committee seemed to ignore a the request of the county commission which asked lawmakers to give the county one congressman and two state senators but instead the maps divide the county into four Senate districts and two congressional seats. “Make Polk county a tidy county for the state Senate and the U.S. congressional districts,’’ she said.