Fred Grimm

Fred Grimm: Lawmakers want your help with redistricting — after the fact

Steve and Andy want you to believe that “we look forward to your thoughts and input.”

They want you to imagine how they really, really want the public’s help as the Legislature slouches back into Tallahassee Monday to redo the congressional district maps they corrupted in 2012.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner need you to forget that a circuit court judge described their last effort as a “mockery of the Legislature’s proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting.”

Instead, Florida’s previous legislative leadership allowed sleazy political consultants to hijack the process, to subvert the maps with “improper partisan intent.” All this while “going to great lengths to conceal from the public their plan.”

Now that the Florida Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to reconfigure the state’s gerrymandered congressional districts, and quickly, Steve and Andy want you to trust that they’re looking forward to hearing what the public has to say about the matter.

Florida voters might argue that they offered plenty of input back in 2010, when a 63 percent majority approved two Fair Districts constitutional amendments that were supposed to prohibit lawmakers from designing district maps “with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.”

Except the legislative leadership ignored the Constitution and did exactly that. State senators did it again, even more blatantly, when they redrew their own districts. The Senate’s lawyers admitted as much last week when they entered a consent decree in a lawsuit challenging 28 of the 40 Senate districts that political consultants created in 2012. In effect, the Senate leadership admitted that they had conspired to undermine the Fair Districts amendments.

The Legislature will be back for yet another special session on Oct. 19 through Nov. 6 to fix the Senate mess. But on Monday, in a session scheduled to go through Aug. 21, they’ll be taking up congressional districts. And, as Steve and Andy claimed in an op-ed published in state newspapers Monday, they want your input. They want your thoughts. They even welcome your own notion of what a constitutional redistricting map ought to entail.

Except their staffers have been busy drawing up the map that the Legislature will most likely adopt. In secret. Which makes all that fine talk about welcoming your input and your maps seem a bit empty.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, the lead litigants in the court challenge to the 2012 maps, fired off a letter Monday to Steve and Andy reminding them: “During the 2012 redistricting process, the Legislature repeatedly emphasized the merits of openness and transparency in redistricting, but nevertheless made key decisions in non-public meetings, destroyed public records and undertook other actions that were directly contrary to the openness and transparency with which it assured the public it would act.”

The letter warned that if the Legislature intends to conjure up its new congressional maps “outside of public view or, worse yet, has done so already,” lawmakers would be both breaking their promise of transparency and violating “the Florida Supreme Court’s guideline that the Legislature ‘conduct all meetings in which it makes decisions on the new map in public and to record any non-public meetings for preservation.’”

Except, the Florida Legislature has already spent about $8 million in court in a futile defense of its dodgy 2012 maps. This crowd doesn’t mind wasting even more taxpayer money in the sacred defense of gerrymandering.

So Steve and Andy have directed their staffers to draw up new maps in private. Though, of course, afterward, they really, really want your input.

And why would anyone ever doubt their sincerity?