Senators Unhappy About Recording Closed Door Redistricting Meetings

Aug 11, 2015
Originally published on August 11, 2015 3:12 pm

As Florida lawmakers take up the task of redrawing the state’s congressional map, they’re facing heightened transparency requirements.  Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise, but some legislators aren’t very happy.

In July* the Supreme Court came down hard on the state Legislature in a finding that put lawmakers on track for a second special session this year and a third attempt at redrawing congressional borders.  In the last round of redistricting—a 2014 special session—instructions were loose and the order was vague. 

To avoid a repeat the Supreme Court issued a broad and demanding order this time.  Among its provisions is the requirement all non-public meetings be preserved, and that means Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), chair of his chamber’s redistricting committee, has to make uncomfortable arrangements. 

“The staff, as I mentioned is available to all of you,” he says, “however, if you are working with the staff in drawing lines, that meeting will be recorded.”

Sen. Joe Negron (R-Stuart) is not pleased.

“I just think this idea of we’ve now gotten to a position where we walk in to talk to our staff, and d-don’t say anything, who’s here, let’s push a button and record,” Negron says.  “We would never impose that on the courts, we would never impose that on the executive branch, and I don’t think that should become a new standard because we’re in civil litigation.”

Meanwhile Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon) is invoking the First Amendment.

“I’m somewhat troubled by the extent to which I feel like my First Amendment rights as a sitting member of this Senate have been impacted by the court’s decision,” Lee says.  “That’s not for us to get into today, it’s more for me to grapple with personally.”

Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island) echoes their complaints.  But Bradley hints he wouldn’t say no to making the court record its deliberations.  Over and over Galvano has assured his fellow senators the recording requirement would not become a precedent.  Lawmakers will be back in October to redraw the Senate map.

Correction 8/11/2015: an earlier version of this story reported the Florida Supreme Court's ruling came down in June instead of July.

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