Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Getting it right about Florida's redistricting

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, had plenty to say about redistricting.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, had plenty to say about redistricting.

Florida legislators hit the road beginning in June 2011 for a series of public hearings to collect input about redistricting. The traveling statewide show has drawn many residents who have peppered legislators with questions and criticisms that have put leaders on the defensive.

PolitiFact Florida previously evaluated a claim by State Rep. Will Weatherford, chairman of the redistricting committee in the House. While at a hearing in Panama City, the Wesley Chapel Republican said, "There is no $30 million pot of money" for redistricting in the House -- a claim we deemed False. While there is no $30 million pot of money labeled exclusively for redistricting in the House, there are two pots of money which are available to fight redistricting lawsuits.

This time we traveled -- that is, electronically because we watched a video of the July 13 hearing -- to The Villages, a mainly conservative retirement community in Central Florida.

There, some residents raised questions about public dollars being spent to fight a redistricting state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2010. One man directed a question to Sen. Alan Hays, a Republican from Umatilla, north of Orlando.

"Some of you people had voted to tax or to spend our taxes against the amendments that were passed by 63 percent of the vote," the man said. "I wonder if you, Sen. Hays, since I'm in your district, did you vote?"

"Did I vote for what?" Hays asked.

"... These taxes being paid for the suit against the amendments?" the man asked. The man was referring to a lawsuit, initially filed by two of Florida's minority members of Congress -- Democrat Corrine Brown and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart -- seeking to overturn Amendment 6, which relates to congressional redistricting. The Florida House later joined that lawsuit as an intervenor plaintiff.

Later in the meeting, Hays responded:

"No I did not vote to spend money to fight that lawsuit. The disappointing part of this whole thing, folks, is the misinformation that is out there. The Florida Legislature has not filed a lawsuit to fight Amendments 5 and 6. The Amendment 6 lawsuit was filed by one Republican congressman and one Democratic congresswoman. The Florida House chose to go, and what's the term? An intervenor? ... in seeking clarification. The Florida House intervened. But your tax dollars are not being used to sue you, the people who voted the 63 percent. Believe me. I don't know where you got your information but it's incorrect. So no I did not vote to waste that money."

When we hear a politician declare that there is misinformation lurking about our ears perk up. In three separate items, we dissected three claims by Hays:

"No I did not vote to spend money to fight that lawsuit" -- referring to a lawsuit challenging Amendment 6.

"The Florida Legislature has not filed a lawsuit to fight Amendments 5 and 6."

"Your tax dollars are not being used to sue you the people who voted the 63 percent" in favor of Amendment 6.