MAJOR 2012 FLORIDA LEGISLATURE ISSUES
The 2012 legislative session will begin on January 10, 2012 and end on March 9, 2012
There are two major constitutionally required activities for the session, redistricting and appropriating. Some legislative leaders have said that not much more will get done in the allotted 60 days.
In 2012 the legislature is required to redraw both the U.S. congressional district boundaries and the state legislative district boundaries. The effort must be consistent with provisions of the U.S. and Florida Constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965
1.1 U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT BOUNDARIES
Florida is required to change its existing congressional district boundaries because it is adding two representatives for the 2012 election.
The U.S. Constitution states in ARTICLE I., Sect. 2. “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to the respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”
If the population were to be distributed equally to each member of the U.S. House of representatives, each of the 435 members would represent 709,760 people (308,745,538/435=709,760), and Florida would have 27 congressional districts (18,843,326/709,760=27). At the present time Florida has 25 congressional districts so the increasing state population requires the addition of two more representatives. These are to be elected in 2012.
The present congressional district boundaries are the result of the liberal application of Gerrymandering. For example, the 16th congressional district represented by Tom Rooney of Tequesta stretches from Palm Beach County on the Atlantic Ocean to Punta Gorda in Charlotte County on the Gulf of Mexico.
The recently enacted provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Florida Constitution (SECTION 16) enumerated in Section 1.2 below apply to the congressional district boundaries and make the work of the legislature more challenging.
The challenges are political, not a simple matter of mathematics. It is necessary to have districts that are compact and utilize existing political and geographical boundaries. Many state politicians see that it is their challenge is to redistrict while minimizing the impact on the electability of incumbent politicians.
The plan developed by the legislature will have to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department (a Voting Rights Act requirement) and be in place for the primary election in August.
1.2 FLORIDA STATE LEGISLATURE DISTRICT BOUNDARIES
The Florida State Constitution states in “SECTION 16. Legislative apportionment.—
(a) SENATORIAL AND REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICTS. The legislature at its regular session in the second year following each decennial census, by joint resolution, shall apportion the state in accordance with the constitution of the state and of the United States into not less than thirty nor more than forty consecutively numbered senatorial districts of either contiguous, overlapping or identical territory, and into not less than eighty nor more than one hundred twenty consecutively numbered representative districts of either contiguous, overlapping or identical territory. Should that session adjourn without adopting such joint resolution, the governor by proclamation shall reconvene the legislature within thirty days in special apportionment session which shall not exceed thirty consecutive days, during which no other business shall be transacted, and it shall be the mandatory duty of the legislature to adopt a joint resolution of apportionment.”
The Florida State Constitution also states in “SECTION 21. Standards for establishing legislative district boundaries.—In establishing legislative district boundaries:
(a) No apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent; and districts shall not be drawn with the intent or result of denying or abridging the equal opportunity of racial or language minorities to participate in the political process or to diminish their ability to elect representatives of their choice; and districts shall consist of contiguous territory.
(b) Unless compliance with the standards in this subsection conflicts with the standards in subsection 1(a) or with federal law, districts shall be as nearly equal in population as is practicable; districts shall be compact; and districts shall, where feasible, utilize existing political and geographical boundaries.
(c) The order in which the standards within subsections 1(a) and (b) of this section are set forth shall not be read to establish any priority of one standard over the other within that subsection.
History.—Proposed by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State September 28, 2007; adopted 2010.
1Note.—The subsections of section 21, as it appeared in Amendment No. 5, proposed by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State September 28, 2007, and adopted in 2010, were designated (1)-(3); the editors redesignated them as (a)-(c) to conform to the format of the State Constitution.”
The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires the creation of a district that performs for racial minorities where (1) a minority population is geographically compact and sufficiently numerous to be a majority in a single district; (2) the minority population is politically cohesive; (3) the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it usually to defeat the minority-preferred candidate; and (4) under all of the circumstances, the minority population has less opportunity than others to participate in the political process and elect representatives of its choice.
2. BUDGETING AND APPROPRIATING
Funds for operating the state must be appropriated in bills passed by the legislature and approved by the Governor.
This is normally a lengthy process involving the drafting of proposed legislation by the various representatives, the holding of hearings by legislative committees of both the House and Senate to consider the bills and recommend changes, and the passage of the bills by both houses after they have been reconciled to be identical.
The media outlets are replete with reports by various advocates and opponents of proposed legislation endeavoring to get their issues before the public in an effort to influence which, if any, bills will get passed.
Legislative leaders have said not much more than redistricting and appropriating will get done.