News from Tallahassee for 9/3/14

Weekly Roundup: Nobody's Perfect posted on 8/25/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

What's the old saying? You win some and you lose some?

That was the case for the state in court this week, where attorneys won a historic case and lost another. On one hand, lawyers for the Legislature won a total victory in the second round of the legal battle over the state's congressional districts when a Leon County judge ruled that a redrawn plan complied with the Florida Constitution's prohibition on political gerrymandering. And he ruled in favor of the state on the question of whether the 2014 elections will be held under the existing map or the new one.

On the other hand, a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was struck down by a federal judge -- though he suspended his ruling until an almost-inevitable appeal can be heard.

Outside the courtroom, political battles continued ahead of Tuesday's primaries, though both Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist were expected to cruise to easy victories.

Judge upholds new congressional map posted on 8/25/14

by Aaron Deslatte and Scott Powers | Orlando Sentinel

Special Session redistricting 2014A judge signed off on the Florida Legislature's second-stab at drawing a non-partisan congressional map Friday, describing the tweaks made to the sprawling Jacksonville-to-Orlando seat of Rep. Corrine Brown "somewhat more compliant" with anti-gerrymandering standards.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis also ruled that the new map will not take effect until 2016, keeping in place the currently invalidated lines through the fall's elections.

The ruling clears a hurdle for this fall’s elections to continue, albeit with districts determined to be unconstitutional.

"I am pleased with Judge Lewis’ speedy, thoughtful and conscientious decision," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in a statement. "I am especially relieved that our overseas military voters and those Floridians who cast their ballots early will have their votes counted this election. You know, sometimes life affords you second chances; I am glad we got it right on the second round."

Lewis ruled in July that GOP operatives had improperly influenced what was supposed to be a new era of nonpartisan re-drawing of political lines once a decade. Although he invalidated the entire map, he found faults mainly with two seats held by Brown and Republican Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden.

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Former associate of ex-Rep. Rivera pleads guilty posted on 8/20/14

by CURT ANDERSON | AP

MIAMI (AP) -- Less than a week before trial, a onetime close associate of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera pleaded guilty Tuesday to four charges in a long-running campaign finance investigation that also implicates Rivera.

Attorneys for Ana Alliegro announced in a surprise that she would plead guilty rather than go to trial Monday. Prosecutor Thomas Mulvihill said there was no plea agreement requiring Alliegro to cooperate as a government witness against Rivera.

Her attorney, Richard Klugh, said there was no written deal in place.

"There is no guaranteed benefit for the plea. She's just accepted responsibility," he said.

Rivera, a Republican, has not been charged and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Alliegro, 44, was accused of funneling about $80,000 to an unknown Democratic candidate, Justin Sternad, in the 2012 primary for the House seat then held by Rivera. Prosecutors say the goal was to weaken Democrat Joe Garcia, who won anyway and later defeated Rivera in the general election.

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Redistricting fight goes back before judge to settle posted on 8/20/14

by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post

Lawyers for voters’ groups will square-off today against those representing the Republican-led Legislature and elections officials over a proposed new congressional district map and election timetable now in the hands of a Leon County judge.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis has scheduled arguments for 9 a.m. on the congressional plan redrawn by state lawmakers in a three-day special session earlier this month. After Lewis invalidated the map approved in 2012 by the Legislature for favoring incumbents and ruling Republicans, lawmakers recast the boundaries of seven congressional districts but argued that its too late to use that map this fall.

Instead, Republican leaders are urging Lewis to approve using the invalidated map for the election contests currently underway. State and county elections officials have supported that stance by submitting documents to Lewis contending that special elections could not be held for any redrawn districts until next spring.

The Florida League of Women Voters, the state’s Common Cause chapter, and several Democratic voters who successfully challenged the 2012 redistricting plan are urging that Lewis reject the Legislature’s latest map-making effort and draw a plan himself. The voters’ coalition has presented three possible maps to guide Lewis.

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Groups ask judge to reject new map for Congress posted on 8/19/14

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The same groups that successfully challenged Florida's congressional map are now asking a judge to throw out a new one drawn up by the Legislature.

In a sharply-worded motion Monday, the coalition that sued legislators asserted the map adopted last week remained "brazenly partisan" and would not fix the problems that prompted a judge to declare it unconstitutional.

The groups, which include the League of Women Voters of Florida, called on Judge Terry Lewis to reject the new map that alters seven of Florida's congressional districts and shifts nearly 400,000 voters. Lewis is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday.

"Despite being given the opportunity to right the wrong they committed and to honor the clear mandate of Florida's voters, legislative defendants have squandered that opportunity," the motion said.

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