"We have a monumental task in front of us."
Sketching out the boundaries of Florida's political districts has always been controversial. After all, the party in charge can draw them to virtually guarantee its candidates will win on election day, but making matters all the more tense now ... the so-called 'fair districts' amendments, passed by voters last November.
They all but outlaw the process of gerrymandering, or drawing district boundaries to benefit one party. Lately it's been republicans.
"The first thing we have to do is follow the law."
In a Monday meeting, house redistricting committee member and democrat Dwayne Taylor prodded his republican colleagues to come clean about their intentions.
"Amendment six passed, it's part of our Florida constitution, and we have an obligation, because we're sworn, to uphold the constitution."
Up and down the state, angry constituents have turned out en masse, calling on lawmakers to end the process of gerrymandering. But even though republican leaders say they'll abide by the new amendments, they may have a conflict.
House speaker Dean Cannon is launching a taxpayer-funded legal challenge of one of the two amendments. It affects congressional districts like this one that stretches all the way from Jacksonville to Orlando, protecting republican incumbents in neighboring districts. It could disappear if the new amendments are upheld.
But Cannon says the only people playing politics are the folks against his lawsuit.
"If fair districts wants to be seen as anything other than a left-wing special interest group, they should propose maps instead of bashing the game because they don't like the score."
Then again, the game is now underway. And there's a real possibility the rules could be changed well before its over.
Almost everyone involved in the redistricting process expect the maps that are passed to wind up in the courts. Last time around, judges didn't release final maps until after the qualifying deadline for candidates.