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Proposal seeks to punish lawmakers who violate 'fair districts'

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers could be kicked out of the Legislature if they try to gerrymander political districts for partisan ends, under proposals filed Tuesday by a pair of Democrats.

The measures (HB 3C, SB 6C) would establish new penalties for lawmakers who violate the voter-approved "Fair Districts" amendments added to the Florida Constitution in 2010.

The bills come during a special session dealing with Senate districts, the fourth time in less than four years that lawmakers have returned to Tallahassee to fix congressional or legislative maps that didn't meet the Fair Districts requirements.

"It's about time we hold the people accountable who have defiantly, flagrantly and maliciously wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in order to perpetuate their own incumbency," Rep. Dwight Dudley, a St. Petersburg Democrat who sponsored the House version of the bill, said in a press release. "Considering that stealing a piece of bubblegum can result in a 60-day jail sentence and a $500 fine, we must create commensurate penalties for those who take millions while making a mockery of our democracy."

The Senate version of the bill was filed by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando.

The bills call for a $5,000 fine, and members could be removed from the Legislature if colleagues find that lawmakers "acted in bad faith or with malice."

A circuit judge could also issue fines for violating the amendments, but couldn't remove lawmakers.

The penalties would only apply to those who sponsor or help craft plans that violate the Fair Districts standards, not any member who votes for the proposals.