The repeated failures of the Florida Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts is a sure sign that Florida needs to create an independent commission to do the work, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said during a stop in Tallahassee on Monday.
“Seems to me we need an independent commission for future reapportionment so that you stop this self-serving process of drawing districts for your own self interest,” said Nelson, a Democrat.
Nelson’s comments come 10 days after the Florida Legislature ended its 12-day special session without producing a redistricting map that both the House and Senate could agree to for the state’s 27 congressional districts.
Nelson said other states – like Arizona and California - have created commissions to draw congressional districts and Florida needs to explore the same idea to keep the map drawing out of the hands of the self-interested.
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“Seems to me that common sense says put it in the hands of as independent of a commission as you can make it,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the Legislature’s failures have created chaos and an uncertainty where people interested in running for office cannot file because they don’t know what district they are in.
When Florida voters overwhelmingly passed the fair districts redistricting reforms there was hope that that would be enough. But he said court documents reported on recently by the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau shows the Legislature has been engaged in a “political partisan exercise.” He said the choice Florida faces is whether it will follow “partisan political hacks” or the rule of law.
Nelson also used his time in Tallahassee to accuse the Florida Legislature of having “thwarted the rule of law” over how it responded to the more recent Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment passed in 2014 calling for dedicating $700 million for environmental land conservation and preservation. The Legislature dedicated just a fraction for that cause.