The cost to Florida taxpayers for failed redistricting maps? $8.1 million, and counting

Mary Ellen Klas | Miami Herald | 07/18/2015

According to the latest tally by the Florida House and Senate, the cost to taxpayers for the Legislature's defense of the redistricting maps that the Florida Supreme Court ruled invalid last week is $8.1 million.

With a trial scheduled to begin in September over the challenge from Democrat-leaning voter groups to the state Senate map, the cost to the taxpayers is mounting.

The House, which doesn't face a legal challenge to its own maps, has spent the most — $4.2 million, through July 10. The Senate has spent $3.9 million — so far.

What could that money be used for had lawmakers not relied on political operatives and illegally created a map with the intent to protect incumbents? It would be enough to pay $10,000 bonuses to 810 high-performing teachers. It's enough to pay the average hospital stay for 4,050 uninsured. It's even enough to expand the tax free back-to-school holiday another day.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last week that eight of the 27 congressional districts drawn by the GOP-led Legislature violates the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution and must be redrawn by Oct. 17. That means that at least 25 districts aligned next to them will likely have to be changed as well.

Lawmakers are expected to announce this week the dates of the special session to redraw the new districts but, with so much at stake over the state now-challenge Senate maps, will they decide to save taxpayers the cost of defending them and revise the Senate maps as well?

David King, the lead attorney for the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs in the case, notes that there are similarities between the way the Senate and congressional maps were adopted.

"The Senate map and the congressional map are two different maps,'' he said during a conference call with reporters last week. "But they were enacted pursuant to pretty much that same procedure and they were impacted by the same political operatives who had the same partisan intent."

He concluded that the court's ruling on the Senate map "will be highly significant on the Senate case." More to come.


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