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Senate looks to speed up redistricting cases

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Senators have started moving forward with a proposal that would speed up redistricting court cases and set new guidelines for elections when redistricting challenges are ongoing.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Tuesday approved the measure, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton.

The measure would provide that in a legal challenge to maps drawn by lawmakers, state courts would "set an immediate hearing, giving the case priority over other pending cases."

It also would require elections to move forward using the districts in place on the 71st day before the primary elections.

Hutson said the bill is aimed at ensuring transparency in the redistricting process and providing certainty for voters and elections supervisors.

It comes after long-running legal battles that led to redrawn districts for the 2016 congressional and state Senate elections.

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, opposed the bill, saying it contained a "flavor of retribution" toward the judicial branch and was aimed to "send a message to the court, which I don't think is appropriate."

Courts struck down legislatively approved congressional and Senate districts because of the Fair Districts anti-gerrymandering standards approved by voters in 2010.

The bill passed by a 4-3 party-line vote and is ready to go to the Senate Rules Committee.