By Javier Manjarres
The legislature once heralded as the “most conservative legislature” is now trying its best to re-brand itself as the “bi-partisan” Florida legislature as it has collectively drafted legislation that shields all legislators, staffers and pertinent documentation from being subpoenaed in any potential litigation that may challenge the legislature’s redistricting of legislative and congressional districts.
We have previously reported that there were possible some high-level back room deals between the two political parties that put Congressman Allen West’s district in jeopardy.
About five months ago, a very high ranking member of the Florida legislature gave me a very disturbing prediction regarding redistricting- “Allen West is screwed.” Take note that comment was made five months ago, long before the proposed maps were made public.
So are the poobahs in the Florida legislature really gunning to oust Allen West? Was a backroom deal made with the Democrat members of the legislature to put West’s seat into play in order to protect the other congressional seats that would favor any future runs for Congress by existing members of the Florida Legislature? The deals were struck, and the maps drawn behind closed doors.- Allen West is Screwed
Our followup on the initial story provided confirmation from Redistricting Chairman and future Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Will Weatherford that a deal had been struck among key Republicans to push the proposed maps through.
We felt that the maps we did draw, were the most legally compliant possible. There were winners and losers in that, unfortunately. But, I think that what we wanted to do was take the maps that we could send to the court, and hopefully get through the court, and I think we did that.
I think our plan is to pass it through(Allen West’s map) It complies with the Voting Rights Act, it complies with Amendment 6, which is also something we have to follow. Drawing districts is not as easy as doing what you want, you have to look at cities, you have to look at county boundaries, you have to make population exactly the same in a congressional district, its not easy when you have two new districts that come into the state, that makes eveyone elses district a little bit smaller.
It’s a challenging process, but I think that what Senator Gaetz and I, and the Speaker and the President negotiated is a map that is fair and is legal. We allowed everyone to have a say. Republicans had a say, Democrats had a say. If people wanted to file amendments to make the districts different, they could, but everything we did was based on how to make the maps as legal as we possibly could.-Rep. Will Weatherford (R) Read more here: Redistricting
The controversy gained national attention amongst conservatives, prompting both Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin to cite the Shark Tank’s reportage on the matter, and Limbaugh railed against Weatherford and the Florida legislature for their purported involvement, and the the conservative blogosphere was lit up by our report. Read more here: Rush Limbaugh
As the Legislature was undergoing a negative media blitz, several key political figures in Tallahassee began distancing those who were the perceived as the culprits, and several legislators were forced into damage control mode. Several operatives in the Republican establishment busied themselves trying to dispel the notion that the ‘fix was in’ for West, but they did not serious challenge the Shark Tank’s rock solid reports.
Now things are coming into much clearer focus as a new bill introduced by the Legislation aims to immunize Legislators from all lawsuits including those that arise from the redistricting process.
From the Miami Herald:
Florida legislators have had to fend off lawsuits for years that attempt to subpoena them and their staff to talk about the sausage-making of the legislative process. But this year, with redistricting lawsuits already pending, and the prospect of a protracted fight over whether or not the staff drew maps to protect incumbents, legislators want to pass a law that tells opponents to keep their distance.
A four-page bill, PCB JDC 12-03, before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday would underscore what courts have traditionally upheld: that legislators have immunity from lawsuits. It spells out that in addition to giving legislators, former legislators, and their staffs protections from lawsuit, they will be protected from turning over documents too. The bill was added to the agenda on Wednesday and has only one committee of reference.
It reads in part:
“A member or former member of the legislature has an absolute privilege in any civil action, judicial administrative proceeding or executive branch administrative proceeding against compelled testimony or the compelled production of any document or record in connection with any action taken or function performed in a legislative capacity.”