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House files congressional plan as deadline delayed

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House late Monday turned in a plan for redrawing the state's 27 congressional districts, despite a court deadline for submitting proposed maps getting pushed back a day.

The House asked Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to approve the last map approved by House members during a special redistricting session that collapsed last month. The collapse left the state without a plan for its congressional districts after the current map was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court in July for violating the anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" standards approved by voters in 2010.

In the wake of the failure of the House and Senate to agree on a redistricting plan, the Supreme Court gave Lewis the task of coming up with a map for justices to review. He is likely to choose among plans submitted by the House, the Senate, a coalition of voting-rights groups that challenged the map and a group of voters, supported by the Florida Democratic Party, who also sued.

The House is proposing a slightly changed version of the "base map" drawn by legislative aides to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling striking down the old districts. Amid discussions with the Senate, the House proposed a map that also consolidated the cities of Groveland, Auburndale, Riviera Beach and Sunrise. But that failed to bridge a difference with the Senate, which wanted more far-reaching changes to the base map.

In a brief accompanying the proposed map Monday, lawyers for the House laid out how the plan was drawn.

"Professional staff prepared the base map without any external pressures or influences," the brief said. "Consistent with the directive from the presiding officers, neither professional staff nor legal counsel had any interactions with any person -- including members of the Legislature or Congress, their staff, and political consultants -- concerning their work on the base map prior to its public release on August 5, 2015, and neither professional staff nor legal counsel assessed the political implications of the base map, except where consideration of political data was legally required to assess compliance with state and federal minority voting-rights provisions."

The House map was the only one filed by late Monday, which was initially supposed to be the deadline for the plans under a schedule ordered by Lewis. However, because of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Senate and the parties that challenged the congressional plan drawn by lawmakers in 2012 have until Tuesday.

It remained unclear which version of the map the Senate will send to the court after floating several possibilities during and after the special session. Lewis will hear arguments starting Sept. 24 on the proposed maps.