Judge Sides With Voting-Rights Groups On Senate Map

A Leon County circuit judge Wednesday approved a redistricting plan for the Florida Senate.
Judge George Reynolds approved a map proposed by voting-rights groups that have led a long-running legal challenge against current Senate districts. In doing so, Reynolds rejected a map proposed by the Senate.
Reynolds had the task of recommending to the Supreme Court either the Senate’s redistricting proposal or one of several plans offered by a coalition of voting-rights groups including the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida. The job fell to Reynolds after the House and Senate failed to come to an agreement on a map during a special session that ended in November.
Existing Senate districts are being set aside under a settlement between lawmakers and the voting-rights organizations, which sued to overturn the current map, arguing it violated a voter-approved ban on political gerrymandering.
(The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)


CONGRESSWOMAN FIGHTS REDISTRICTING PLAN: U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown faces a deadline to file a revised federal lawsuit challenging a new Florida congressional redistricting plan. Brown's district would be dramatically changed under the plan. Currently, it stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando. Under the new plan, it is drawn to go from Jacksonville to Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee. Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, filed an original version of the lawsuit in August but has said she will amend it after the Florida Supreme Court this month approved the new map.

Jeb Bush Campaigns In Florida Today

BUSH CAMPAIGNS IN HIALEAH: Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will campaign at a restaurant in Miami-Dade County. (8:15 a.m., Chico's Restaurant, 4070 West 12th Ave., Hialeah.)

BUSH SPEAKS IN PALM BEACH COUNTY: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is expected to speak to the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches. (Noon, Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.)

BUSH CAMPAIGNS IN OCALA: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush will hold a town-hall event in Marion County. (3 p.m., Circle Square Commons, Cypress Hall, 8413 S.W. 80th St., Ocala.)


 Circuit Judge Terry Lewis

A Leon County judgey ordered the state to use a map of congressional districts drawn by a coalition of voting-rights groups during the next three elections. The brief final judgment, written by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, was a formality; Lewis had already recommended the coalition's proposal to the Florida Supreme Court, which supported his ruling in a Dec. 2 decision. "Plan CP-1 shall be utilized in the 2016 Florida congressional elections and in Florida congressional elections thereafter until the next decennial redistricting," Lewis wrote. The original draft of the congressional map --- drawn by the Legislature in 2012 and tweaked in 2014 --- was struck down by the Supreme Court in July for violating a voter-approved ban on gerrymandering. Lawmakers will try again in 2022, two years after the U.S. Census. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., is challenging the redistricting plan in federal court.

© 2015 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved


U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat who has been perhaps the most-outspoken opponent of a congressional redistricting plan, will file a revised federal lawsuit by Dec. 29, according to a court filing Tuesday. The Florida Supreme Court on Dec. 2 approved a new map that dramatically changes Brown's district, which currently stretches from Jacksonville to Orlando. Under the new plan, the district would run from Jacksonville to Gadsden County, which is west of Tallahassee. The plan, which received a final sign-off Tuesday from Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, is aimed at complying with the anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" standards approved by voters in 2010. Brown filed a federal lawsuit in August, arguing that reconfiguring her district would reduce African-Americans' chances of electing a candidate of their choice, violating the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit was later placed on hold until the Supreme Court approved the new map. The document filed Tuesday in federal court in Tallahassee was a joint status report from attorneys for Brown, the state House, the state Senate, Secretary of State Ken Detzner and voting-rights groups. It said Brown plans to amend her original complaint by Dec. 29. Also it said the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, the voting-rights groups that led a legal fight to require redrawn districts, will file an amended motion to intervene in the federal case by Jan. 12.

© 2015 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved

A Holiday Message from Commissioner Beam Furr

Seasons Greetings

Happy Holidays everyone, I hope that this season affords each and everyone a chance to relax, spend time with family and friends, and reflect on the past year. As we move into 2016, I am optimistic that Broward County will continue moving in the right direction. Of course, there were several newsworthy events that took place over the last few weeks, which I would like to bring to your attention.
Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact 2.0 Signed in Key West

While the nations of the world were in Paris coming to an agreement on Climate Change, the counties of Southeast Florida were meeting in Key West for the 7th Annual Summit of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties each gave presentations on their updated action plans and projects. They recounted the successes and lessons learned in order to provide guidance to help other communities move forward in responding to Climate Change. The three-day summit concluded with each of the four counties re-signing the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact.
The Importance of Regional Collaboration in Fighting Against the Effects of Climate Change
At the summit, members of the Compact presented the updated unified sea level rise projection, which is the projection that all of the city and county governments have agreed to use for purposes of building codes, planning and resiliency. Members also gave presentations illustrating the need to establish their own resiliency standards that could guide future development.

As Dr. Jennifer Jurado, the Director of Broward County’s Environmental Planning and Community Resilience division stated on a recent episode of WLRN’s the Florida Roundup, "In the absence of those (resiliency) standards, we're subjecting these new investments to conditions that are not going to be sustainable… we're not going to be able to sustain levels of service that are critical to a functional community." Furthermore, we need to have these standards apply to any new development, meaning that there needs to be coordination between building elevation, road elevation, and all other parts of our infrastructure.
From Left to Right – Miami-Dade County Commissioner (and Chairman) Jean Monestime, Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr, Monroe County Commissioner (and Mayor Pro Tem) Heather Carruthers, and Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams
The City of Hollywood took a big step into a leadership position in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. Hollywood joins Key West, West Palm Beach and Miami Beach as the four municipalities on the Compact Steering Committee.
To hear more about this Summit and the work that is being done by the members of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, you can listen to the December 4th episode of WLRN’s The Florida Roundup.

Listen to program
Unspent Office Funds will be Donated to the Beach Dune Grant Program

At the end of this fiscal year, each Commission office was given an opportunity to use unspent funds to donate to a special project. I have decided to donate the full $12,000 to the Beach Dune Grant Program. This means that in FY16 another round of small grants will be awarded to cities, HOAs or other non-profits looking to construct vegetated beach dunes in Broward County. My office will not have any input on who wins the grants, but I have asked that preference be given to projects in District 6.
Broward County Faces Off with the Florida Panthers
The Broward County Commission decided to renegotiate the deal with the Florida Panthers. It passed on a 5-3 vote with one abstention. This deal commits $86 Million of taxpayer funds over several years to the NHL team, its owner and the arena operating company. I voted against this deal for one simple reason. The $86 million in this deal comes out of Tourist Development Tax dollars. The Tourist Development Tax (TDT) is generated by sales of hotel and motel room nights, and those funds historically go towards projects that are specifically designed to generate more tourists to Broward County.

One of the biggest projects that is paid for with TDT money is Beach Renourishment. Segment III, the segment of the beach in Broward County from the Miami-Dade County line up to Port Everglades, including Hallandale Beach, Hollywood Beach and Dania Beach, is estimated to cost $53.9 million for a future round of beach renourishment.

To me, the health of our Beaches in Broward County needs to be our top priority when we consider how and where we spend our TDT money. Tourists from all over the world come to South Florida for the sun and the sand, not the ice.

My concern is that the current strategy for funding future beach renourishment also depends on the State Legislature, the Governor, and the Congress to meet their spending obligations. When it comes to the protection of our environment, none of those commitments can be guaranteed, making our dollars all that more important. The beach is our livelihood. We must plan to sustain our beach as it is necessary to sustaining our very way of life.

Climate Change and Sea Level Rise will only increase the need for Broward County to hold cash reserves for other environmental projects on our beaches.

To see my comments in full from the December 8th meeting, here is the video below.
TutorMate and Climate Change on WPBT2’s Issues with Helen Ferre

On December 18th I was invited to speak about the TutorMate initiative and Climate Change on WPBT2’s Issues with Helen Ferre. The original program aired on WPBT Channel 2 on December 18th at 7pm, and you can watch it here.

Watch Video on YouTube
Volunteer Opportunity – Help Broward County Conduct the Homeless Point-in-Time Count.
I hope you will join me and volunteer for the Homeless Point-in-Time Count. The Point-in-Time Count is the best tool for tracking where the needs are greatest in our community, and where our programs have been most successful. From Tuesday, January 26th through Thursday, January 28th teams of two, three, or four volunteers will canvass the known sites where individuals experiencing homelessness gather.

If you would like to volunteer for the Homeless Point-in-Time Count, please visit pit.brhpc.org to register as a volunteer. If you and several friends want to register as a team, you can do so. If you do not have a team, you will be assigned to one on the day of the Point-in-Time Count. The goal is to sign up 200 volunteers by the beginning of volunteer training, which runs from January 12th through the 14th. If you can gather a group of 10 or more volunteers, you can email a request to PITvolunteers@brhpc.org for the Broward Regional Health Planning Council to arrange for a trainer to come to you.
Travelling Soon? FLL has an App!

Broward County's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport now has its own app for smartphone and tablet devices. This app has several functions, and I recommend using it to make sure you get up to the minute updates on your flights arrival and departure schedule as well as real time information on parking at the FLL garage. You can download the FLL App from the Google Play Store or the Apple iTunes Store below.


Child Care Licensing Proposals Presented at Florida Association of Counties Annual Conference
The Florida Association of Counties (FAC) represents Florida’s 67 counties on a range of important issues before the state legislature. I serve as Vice Chair of the Human Services Legislative Committee, and I had the privilege to attend the FAC’s Legislative Conference earlier this month. At this conference I brought forth two proposals related to early learning and school readiness. The first proposal centers on the idea that the state of Florida should ensure appropriate funding to provide adequate access to child care and enrichment programs for low-income working families. I am happy to report that this part of the proposal was enthusiastically adopted by the Florida Association of Counties and will be part of the FAC 2016 legislative program.

The second part of my proposal puts the focus on raising the quality of available programs. While there are several factors that define a high quality early education program, a key component is the knowledge and skills of the child care providers. I proposed that over a five-year period we raise the minimum standard for working as an early educator in our state.
Current Credentialing Minimum Requirement
Proposed Minimum Credentialing RequirementWithin Five Years
  • High School Diploma
  • High School Diploma
  • 45 Hour Introductory Child Care Course
  • 120 Hours National Child Development Associate (CDA) credential
  • 10 Hours / Year In-Service Training
  • 20 Hours / Year Professional Development
This proposal remains under review by the committee so that a revised proposal can come back for a vote. We must invest in making sure that all of our youngest residents come to school prepared for school, because the price of inaction is just too high.
The Rain Couldn’t Stop the Hollywood Candy Cane Parade

On December 5th, the City of Hollywood held its annual Candy Cane Parade, rain or shine. Thankfully, the weather cleared up considerably before the parade finally got underway. I was happy to still see so many children and their families on the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk and their excitement as the floats passed by.

Recycle Your Christmas Tree at a Broward County Park through Chip-a-Tree

The Holidays are here, which means that Broward County is bringing back our Chip-a-Tree initiative. Last year, Broward County Parks recycled more than 5,000 trees, representing tons of material that would otherwise have gone to landfills. The mulch from the trees is used throughout the county parks system.

The free program encourages Broward County residents to remove all decorations from their holiday trees (no decorated trees will be accepted), then bring the trees to a participating park, where they are chipped and used for landscaping throughout the county park system. There is a limit of two trees per vehicle, artificial trees are not accepted, and no commercial vehicles or garbage trucks are allowed.
This season's program runs daily from Saturday, December 26, 2015, through Monday, January 18, 2016 Martin Luther King Day. The gate fees will be waived for tree recyclers, so there's no excuse not to do the right thing.

For more information on locations and hours, please visit Broward.Org/Parks/ThingsToDo/Pages/Chip-a-TreeProgram.aspx
Contact Us
Contact Us
Our district office is conveniently located in the lobby of the Hollywood Branch of the Broward County Public Library at 2600 Hollywood Blvd, next to Hollywood City Hall. This office is open for your convenience Mondaythrough Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. If you would like to schedule an appointment, or you have a great idea, suggestion or an issue that needs my attention, feel free to call me at 954-357-7006/7790 or send me an email at bfurr@broward.org.


County Commissioner Beam Furr District 6
Broward County Commission | 115 S. Andrews Ave. Room 412 | Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
Email -BFurr@Broward.org | Website - Broward.org | Phone: 954-357-7006


The state's personal-injury protection auto insurance system, known as "no-fault," would end in 2019 under proposals ready to go before lawmakers.

Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, filed a proposal (HB 997) last week, two months after Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty tossed out the idea of, "Let's just repeal PIP and do nothing," as a way to further reduce fraud in the personal-injury protection system.

The repeal idea also appears to have backing from state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Atwater, who along with Gov. Rick Scott championed 2012 changes intended to fight fraud in the no-fault system, had maintained as recently as October that time was needed to see the impact of the legislative changes.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for Atwater said that the "time has now passed."

"Ultimately, it's a policy decision for the Legislature to make, but two years after the passage of the PIP legislation, it's time for the insurance industry to bring forward evidence that shows whether or not rates are going to come down," Atwater spokeswoman Ashley Carr said in an email. "If consumers aren't going to get the relief the legislation intended, then the time to repeal has arrived."

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed the Senate version (SB 1112) of Hager's proposal on Dec. 11. The identical measures would require motorists to have a minimum of property-damage and bodily-injury liability coverage.

Under the decades-old no-fault system, intended to make insurance claims less adversarial than lawsuits, motorists are required to carry personal-injury protection coverage that includes $10,000 in medical benefits.

However, questions have grown over the limits of $10,000 in medical coverage, while efforts to remove fraud from the no-fault system have resulted in more coverage restrictions.

With lawmakers estimating that the average Florida motorist was paying $180 a year for the personal-injury protection portion of their auto coverage, a 2012 law set benchmarks for insurers to lower rates on the coverage. The law also required people involved in crashes to seek treatment within 14 days and allowed up to $10,000 in benefits for emergency medical conditions, while putting a $2,500 cap on non-emergency conditions.

State officials maintained the changes were showing signs of working.

In January, the Office of Insurance Regulation estimated the average no-fault annual payment was about $125.

The state agency also reported at that time that the average medical cost paid through PIP claims dropped 14 percent statewide from 2011 to the first three quarters of 2014, with the average payment down 28.7 percent in South Florida in the same time. But the numbers were still considered too preliminary to show the full impact of the law.

The changes also drew legal challenges.

A Leon County circuit judge in 2013 ruled the law illegally prevented injured people from using PIP coverage to pay for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists and limited the services from chiropractors. The ruling was eventually overturned. Still, some lawmakers believe the law will eventually fail a court challenge and have suggested the state replace PIP with bodily-injury coverage.

McCarty said at a Florida Chamber of Commerce insurance event in October that most motorists already have bodily-injury coverage. As a result, lawmakers might not have to do anything to replace PIP, which is also commonly known as no-fault.

"I'm not so sure that I'm ready to move to a more litigious auto system, but I think one thing to consider, particularly if we get an adverse decision on PIP, let's fix it or flush it," McCarty said. "We have done everything to fix PIP you could have possibly have done. We've had seven sessions on PIP. … A $10,000 benefit, really. Is it worth this amount?"

McCarty added that ending no-fault wouldn't impact many motorists, as "only a handful of people" buy just the minimum coverage, while those engaged in fraud would look for other outlets.

"We talk about the whack-a-mole. Fraud is rampant in this state," McCarty said. "Fraud looks for its weakest link. And if you eliminate (PIP), even if for just two years, in two years you would cut the pipeline off of PIP. You'd cut the supply of capital going into PIP."

It remains to be determined how much attention the legislation will get once the 2016 session begins in January.

Florida Supreme Court unanimously approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would go on the November 2016 ballot

Image result for legalizing medical marijuana

In a key step for supporters of legalizing medical marijuana, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would go on the November 2016 ballot.

Justices said the proposal, spearheaded by the group People United for Medical Marijuana, meets legal tests that include dealing with a single subject and having a clearly worded ballot title and summary. The Supreme Court does not consider the merits of proposed constitutional amendments but reviews them, in part, to make sure voters would not be misled.

"(The) ballot title and summary fairly inform voters of the purpose of the proposed amendment --- the state authorization of medical marijuana for patients with debilitating medical conditions,'' the 15-page opinion said. "The language is clear and does not mislead voters regarding the actual content of the proposed amendment."

People United for Medical Marijuana, which is led and heavily financed by Orlando lawyer John Morgan, still needs to submit 683,149 valid petition signatures to the state by a Feb. 1 deadline. As of Thursday morning, it had submitted 400,032, according to the state Division of Elections website.

"The unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court to approve the new medical marijuana constitutional amendment is a huge victory for hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians who could benefit from the passage of such a law," campaign manager Ben Pollara said in a text message. "While we still must collect the required number of petitions before officially being placed on the 2016 ballot, we are confident that we will and that Florida voters will approve this amendment in the general election."

The group, also known as United for Care, tried to pass a similar constitutional amendment in 2014 but fell short of getting approval from 60 percent of voters, as is required by law. About 58 percent of voters supported the measure, which drew opposition, in part, from a group heavily funded by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Supreme Court justices split on the wording of the 2014 initiative, ruling by a 4-3 margin that it could go on the ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the ballot language could deceive voters about the extent of marijuana use that would be allowed.

But supporters revised the 2016 proposal to address concerns raised about the 2014 initiative by Supreme Court justices and opponents. With the changes, Bondi did not contest the 2016 proposal at the Supreme Court.

The proposal, in part, would allow patients with "debilitating" medical conditions, as certified by physicians, to get medical marijuana. The initiative lists a series of conditions that could be considered debilitating, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.

Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott last year approved a measure that allows limited types of medical marijuana for certain patients, such as children with severe forms of epilepsy. But those types of cannabis purportedly do not get users high.

The proposed constitutional amendment, however, would make available euphoria-causing marijuana to a larger number of patients. The Florida Department of Health would have regulatory powers.

"We conclude that the initiative has a logical and natural oneness of purpose, specifically, whether Floridians wish to include a provision in our state Constitution permitting the medical use of marijuana,'' the Supreme Court opinion said, addressing a requirement that initiatives deal with single subjects. "The proposed amendment's provision regarding the specific role for the Department of Health in overseeing and licensing the medical use of marijuana is directly connected with this purpose."

News Service senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this story.



Nearly a year after same-sex marriages started in Florida, a legal decision could be looming in a dispute about birth certificates for children of same-sex couples.

Two couples and an advocacy group asked a federal judge last week to require the Florida Department of Health to list both spouses on birth certificates of children born into same-sex marriages --- as the department typically does when married parents are a man and a woman.

The request for summary judgment, which would short-circuit the need for a trial, contends that the department's refusal to list both spouses in same-sex marriages on birth certificates violates couples' constitutional rights.

"Defendants' (agency officials') refusal to issue birth certificates listing both parents when a same-sex spouse gives birth to a child in Florida treats married same-sex couples differently than married different-sex couples, denying married same-sex couples one of the most important protections provided to married couples under state law,'' said the document filed in federal court in Tallahassee. "Defendants' conduct exposes plaintiffs and their children to serious harms, while serving no legitimate, much less compelling, state interest."

But department attorneys argue that the agency does not have the power to make the change on its own. At least one of the issues in the case is a state law that says if a "mother is married at the time of birth, the name of the husband shall be entered on the birth certificate as the father of the child, unless paternity has been determined otherwise by a court of competent jurisdiction."

"Defendants (agency officials) contend that the department is an executive agency whose powers are limited to the ability to administer and enforce the laws and rules related to the state of Florida's public health system including the authority to act as the state's registrar of vital statistics pursuant to (a section of state law),'' according to an October court document that outlines the positions of both sides. "Therefore, the department lacks the authority to revise existing legislation or to apply case law in a manner that invalidates existing legislation without clear judicial authority to do so."

The lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include the Equality Florida Institute advocacy group, was filed in August, about seven months after same-sex marriages began in Florida. The lawsuit also came less than two months after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a legal right for same-sex couples to marry.

Two of the plaintiffs in the birth certificate case, Kari Chin and Deborah Chin, were married 2013 in Massachusetts, with Kari Chin giving birth in February 2015 to a son, according to last week's filing. The Department of Health's Office of Vital Statistics issued a birth certificate listing Kari Chin as a parent but declined to list both spouses.

The other plaintiffs, Alma Vazquez and Yadira Arenas, were married in 2013 in New York, with Vazquez giving birth in March 2015 to a daughter. The court filing said Vazquez was told she had to be listed as unmarried to get a birth certificate for the child.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has set a Jan. 6 deadline for the Department of Health to respond to the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Hinkle last year ruled that Florida's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, which set the stage for marriages to begin.

© 2015 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.
Independent and Indispensable


Senate rests its case in redistricting trial

Baoung Liu
 Baodong (Paul) Liu, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, who testified that the Senate's maps were superior 

The second day of the Florida redistricting trial ended early Tuesday as the Florida Senate presented a single witness in defense of its redistricting map who withstood a blistering cross examination before the Senate rested its case.
The Senate sole witness was  Baodong (Paul) Liu, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, who testified that the Senate's maps were superior because they were more likely to guarantee that minorities could be elected to office.
But in a two-hour cross examination, the lead lawyer for the challengers, David King, attempted to poke holes in Liu's testimony, showing that he failed to include in his report the "functional analysis" that the Florida Supreme Court has ruled is necessary to determine the voting performance of minority districts.
King prompted Liu to  concede that he relied on voting patterns in Central Florida to determine the performance patterns of voters in Broward County, and he provoked Liu to acknowledge that he got the results of one election wrong in his report to the court -- claiming that a black candidate for Orange County clerk of court had been defeated when she had won.
Liu said he relied on "local people" to provide him with "accurate information" about the results and did not verify it independently.
After Liu's testimony, Senate lawyers withdrew a second witness, prompting lawyers to suggest that the weeklong trial could end earlier than the scheduled Friday adjournment. 
The focus of Liu's testimony was his review of the state's voting trends, concluding that because of Florida's history of racially polarized voting, the Senate maps proposed by the challengers would likely lead to whites being elected in districts intended for blacks and Hispanics, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution.
He concluded that to increase minority voting participation in Florida, districts must be drawn to give the minority the majority of the population. That means that for blacks to be elected in a Senate district, the voting age population must exceed 50 percent, and for Hispanics to be elected, the voting age population must exceed 75 percent.
"My conclusion is the state Senate plan is a better plan than the alternative plan,'' based on scientific methods used to study "racially polarized voting in the state," Liu told the court.
But King challenged him to point to an election that proved these conclusions were accurate. Liu could not cite an example but said that was no reason to conclude it wouldn't happen. 

"One election outcome doesn't mean the pattern changed,'' he said. 
But Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds noted the inconsistency of the argument, asking Liu to show how many districts in the Senate map meet his suggested voting age population thresholds, and how many in the map drawn by challengers.
Liu replied that while the map drawn in 2002 had three Hispanic districts in which the voting age population exceeds 75 percent while the Senate map includes only two districts with Hispanic voting age population at that level and the plaintiffs maps include two proposals with one district with VAP at 75 percent or higher, and two proposals with two district with 75 percent or more VAP.
The Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution require that any redistricting map preserves the right for minorities in Florida to elect a candidate of their choice. The Senate argues that the four maps proposed by the challengers diminish the voting strength of blacks in Broward County and Hispanics in Miami-Dade County. 
But plaintiffs counter that claim, saying the measurement is not how many people are included in a district but how well the district performs to elect minority candidates. They claim that the Legislature's map attempts to pack blacks into districts throughout the state to help Republicans win in adjoining districts, while the plaintiff's map maximizes the number of districts blacks can safely be elected to the Senate without packing them together.
The challengers also offer two maps that draw four Hispanic seats in Miami-Dade and two that draw three Hispanic seats, the same number offered in the Senate map. 
After Liu's testimony, the trial continued at an unexpectedly swift pace as lawyers for the Senate decided not to present the testimony of one of its two expert witnesses, prompting the judge to suggest that portions of two depositions be read into the record Tuesday afternoon.
The decision led to an odd hour where a lawyer from the plaintiffs' law firm read excerpts of the deposition of Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, into the record. 
On Wednesday, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will be called to testify by the challengers, along with three of their expert witnesses. They claim that Galvano single-handedly selected the Senate map and chose one that gives an advantage to Republicans over Democrats -- in an effort to preserve his chances to be elected Senate presidentin 2018.
The case is expected to finish up on Thursday and the parties will submit their draft motions to the judge on Dec. 23.