NOW THINGS ARE JUST GETTING WACKY IN THE REDISTRICTING TRIAL. INVISIBLE MAPS!!!!: “The trial over Florida’s redrawn congressional districts took a dramatic turn Thursday when the judge closed the courtroom to the public and a private citizen — whom legislators had commended for having drawn portions of the final congressional map — testified he did not draw any maps and that his name was used without his permission. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis closed the proceedings to allow the court to hear testimony about redistricting documents considered confidential by the firm that created them, owned by Gainesville-based political operative Pat Bainter. Bainter lost a yearlong legal battle this week when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that 538 pages of emails, maps and planning documents Bainter considered “trade secrets” could be admitted into evidence at the trial. But the court also said that when the documents are admitted, the courtroom would be closed to the public and the news media. The plaintiffs, a coalition of voters led by the League of Women Voters and seven Democratic-leaning individuals, accuse legislators of allowing political operatives to conduct a “shadow” redistricting process to benefit Republican incumbents and candidates in violation of the Fair District amendments to the Florida Constitution. Lawyers for the GOP-controlled Legislature deny those claims and asked the judge Thursday to dismiss the case, arguing the challengers cannot prove that the actions of the political consultants resulted in lawmakers violating the Fair District amendments. At least some of Bainter’s “secret” documents were admitted into evidence Thursday, opening the door for the long-sought testimony of mystery mapmaker Alex Posada. Posada, a former Florida State University student, allegedly submitted a complete congressional map at 4:42 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2012, as part of a legislative effort to encourage public input. A state Republican Party official, Frank Terraferma, testified last week that portions of Posada’s map were “identical” to a map he had created several months before, and that three of the districts in both maps were used in the final congressional map adopted by lawmakers. During the trial, neither Terraferma nor any of the House and Senate redistricting staff could explain how the two maps came to look identical.” (via Miami Herald)
SO I’LL TAKE YOU OFF MY MAP:
IF YOU KEEP CROSSING YOUR FINGERS LIKE THAT, THEY’LL TURN PURPLE: “When it comes to discussing who might be the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014, Bill Nelson has acted a bit curiously over the past year. He has been coy about Charlie Crist, sometimes flirting with the possibility that he'd insert himself into the race, as unlikely as that might seem for the 71-year-old, 13-year U.S. Senator. With a few weeks to go before the qualification period for the August primary ends, Nelson was again asked today outside his district office in Tampa if he might still throw his hat into the ring. "I have no intention of running for governor," he repeated. But when pressed if he had completely extinguished the idea he said, "What is it, June?" before being interrupted and told that there are still several more weeks before the qualifying period ends. "I have told you all consistently: I have no plans to run. I have no intention of running," before adding that he's in place to become the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and number two on the Armed Services Committee. CL asked Nelson about his previously stated reticence regarding a Crist candidacy. When asked how he was feeling about Crist today, Nelson would only say, "I will support the Democratic nominee and I will support that person enthusiastically.’” (via Creative Loafing Tampa)
SPEAKING OF IFFY CAMPAIGNS, THE FAR RIGHT WANTS AS FAR FROM THE BUSH DYNASTY AS POSSIBLE: “Dealing with razor-sharp conservative opponents is difficult for any Republican to the left of Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas wrecking ball who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to McCarthy. This spring, venerable and courtly Republicans such as Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi are staving off Tea Party-infused primary challenges. And it’s not just those running for re-election. Being speaker of the House is like herding cats, wrote one of its alumni, but for House Majority Leader John Boehner, it was like taming tigers as he tried to soothe the Tea Party’s Class of 2010. Every generation of office-holding Bushes must confront the same dilemma about how to deal with ultraconservatives. Not because they’re secretly moderate; they’re not. But their ambition forces them to confront the problem in ways that are more pronounced than it would be for, say, George W. Smith or Jeb Jones. Their family history is both the source of their strength and, at times, its undoing. Putting together coalitions broad enough to capture first the GOP nomination, then the general election is hard for any candidate having without fundamental conservatives thinking you’re faking it. The Bush version of Downton Abbey—competing lineages masked by family unity, financial ambition hidden beneath a life of Yale diplomas and seemingly effortless athleticism—is what propels them into the arena, just as it gives their opponents something to skewer.But almost every time the Bushes campaign, they have to contend with being outflanked by their party’s ultraconservative-wing, and as Jeb decides whether or not to run for president, the question lingers: Will he be upended by more conservative opponents or find a way to tame them? The family’s history, including Jeb’s, shows that it’s very tough, particularly this year. Fielding a third Bush in 30 years may not be the charm.” (via Newsweek)
IN WHICH THE MENTALLY ILL ARE ALLOWED TO KEEP THEIR GUNS BUT NOT THEIR BABIES: “The question in Mindi’s case is not about what authorities did when she plunged into a mental health crisis—nearly everyone involved in the case, including Mindi’s own attorneys, agrees it was likely appropriate to remove her baby that day. Instead, the issue is whether a mental health diagnosis itself, in the absence of any harm, should be enough to keep Mindi from ever getting her daughter back. Under a concept sometimes called “predictive neglect,” Missouri and about 30 other states allow courts to terminate a parent’s connection to a child if authorities conclude a mother or father has a mental illness that renders them incapable of safely raising the child. Officials usually must present evidence that the illness poses a threat. Most cases involve significant mental illness, not run-of-the-mill depression or anxiety. Yet there need be no evidence of actual harm or neglect, just a conclusion that there is a risk of it. States typically do not track how many parental termination cases are related to mental illness, or how often parents have lost children based on a diagnosis. New York, one of the few states that does tally such cases, has about 200 parental terminations annually based on mental disability, a category that includes both mental illness and “mental retardation.” If there were a similar rate nationally, that would amount to several thousand cases per year. The cases are typically sealed, and there’s no way to know how many involve court overreach.” (via The Daily Beat/ProPublica)
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