As lawyers, we must use the insurance laws and regulations set in place by the legislature. However, legislation is not produced in a vacuum. Political ideology, professional background, personal experience, and a host of other factors affect each legislator’s approach to insurance. To effectively predict and react to legislation relating to insurance, policyholders and lawyers must understand the political process.
Here in Florida, we are in the midst of a potential upheaval in the political landscape as a result of redistricting. Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. In Florida, both congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn by the state legislature. I will attempt to give some background as to how we got to the place we are today.
In 2010, Florida voters approved the “Fair District” amendments that require redistricting maps to be contiguous, compact, and wherever possible, use previously created borders such as city and county lines and geographical features. Moreover, the district maps could not be written to benefit a political party.
On February 9, 2012, the Republican-held state legislature approved new congressional districts. On February 16, 2012, the plan was signed into law. On February 9, 2012, the map’s opponents filed suit and a lengthy legal battle ensued. On July 10, 2014, Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry P. Lewis found that "districts 5 and 10 were drawn in contravention" of the state constitution, "thus making the redistricting map unconstitutional as drawn." Lewis required that only Districts 5 and 10 be redrawn (and any districts impacted by the redrawing). The court ordered that the state legislature convene a special session to draft a new map.
On August 22, 2014, Lewis approved the new map. Those opposed to these new maps appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. On July 9, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the circuit court’s decision to approve the new map. The court specified that at least eight districts must be redrawn (it is likely that other districts will also need to be redrawn, if only slightly, to account for changes in the specified districts). The state supreme court ordered that a new map for Congressional districts be adopted and implemented for the 2016 election.
As a result of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision, the Florida Legislature must convene a “special session” to redraw the Congressional districts in a way that meets with the court’s approval. This special session is currently underway.
Why did I just give a background in civics and congressional redistricting? It’s because redrawing the Congressional districts is the first “domino.” The second is the redrawing of the state senate districts. Given the reasoning behind the Florida Supreme Court’s disapproval of the Congressional districts, observers believe that the senate districts are invalid as well and must be redrawn. Therefore, the Florida Legislature will go into another “special session” in October to redraw the state senate districts. Boom—the second “domino.”
In a matter of months, Congressional and state senate districts will be redrawn. Current members of Congress and current state senators might see their chances at reelection disappear. As these districts change, politicians will play a game of musical chairs. For example, a republican state senator whose district is redrawn in a way that results in more democrats in that district might decide to run for Congress instead of facing certain defeat. In some cases, incumbent state senators might be forced to run against each other as the districts are redrawn.
Until the maps are redrawn, we will not know how the dominos will fall. Stay tuned.