GOP set redistricting committees to redraw political boundaries

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Legislative leaders have announced which lawmakers will play direct roles in drawing the state’s districts for the next decade.

Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls announced their committee assignments for the coming year’s redistricting committees and subcommittees. Those committees, all led by Republicans, will direct the early steps as lawmakers redraw boundaries for state House and Senate districts and for 28 congressional districts in Florida.

Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released population and demographic data that will be used to draw the maps that will be used for the next 10 years – barring a successful legal challenge or other mid-decade redistricting. The Census Bureau was late releasing the data this year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the census data necessary to begin the redistricting process now available, the Senate can begin holding committee meetings related to redistricting when interim committee meetings resume in Tallahassee later this month,” Simpson wrote in his memo to senators.

Simpson and Sprowls had previously announced Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Rep. Tom Leek to lead their respective chambers’ committees. On Thursday, Sprowls announced Rep. Tyler Sirois as Congressional Redistricting Subcommittee Chair and Rep. Cord Byrd as State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee Chair in a series of leadership moves. Friday’s additions round out the House and Senate panels.

Stepping up alongside Rodrigues on the main Senate Committee is Vice Chair Doug Broxson, six other Republicans and four Democrats. Joining Leek on the main House committee is Vice Chair Randy Fine, 14 other Republicans and eight Democrats.

On the Senate Congressional-level committee is Chair Jennifer Bradley, Republican Sens. Aaron Bean and Gayle Harrell, and Democratic Sens. Darryl Rouson and Linda Stewart. With Sirois on the House panel is Vice Chair Kaylee Tuck, 12 other Republicans and seven Democrats.

As for the final pair of committees, on state-level redistricting, the Chair Danny Burgess will lead the Senate panel of Republican Sens. Ana Maria Rodriguez and Kelli Stargel and Democratic Sens. Randolph Bracy and Audrey Gibson. Joining Byrd on the House side is Vice Chair Will Robinson, 12 other Republicans and seven Democrats.

Simpson expects interim committee meetings to be open to the public. Committee meetings for the 2022 Legislative Session will begin the week of Sept. 20. The 60-day Legislative Session will start Jan. 11.

Growing urban centers and declining rural populations point to a fight that will play out in the suburbs.

Sirois is looking forward to committee weeks. In an interview with Florida Politics, he committed to “integrity, transparency and accessibility” despite national pressure for Republicans to build their lead.

“My goal is 10 years from now members look back on this process and be proud of it and know we followed state and federal law and followed the constitutional process,” Sirois said.

Byrd thinks Sprowls made his leadership picks because he wants lawmakers respected by leaders in both parties.

“This is a political process dealing with politicians,” Byrd said. “You need people who have shown an ability to listen to all sides.”

That said, Byrd’s choice is already raising eyebrows among some over the Representative’s ties to the far right.

(Florida Politics reporter Jacob Ogles contributed to this story.)

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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