Florida Supreme Court — pondering the Legislature’s latest plan to redistrict the state Senate — could well begin with “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if .?.?.” In this instance, the “if” is a U.S. Supreme Court decision that Chief Justice Earl Warren called the most important ruling during his watch.It’s also extremely important forMiamiandFlorida’s other urban areas. Even so, its 50th anniversary recently passed virtually unnoticed by media pundits focused on the current high court’s deliberations on “Obamacare.”That’s unfortunate because the March 26, 1962 majority opinion in Baker v. Carr — penned by Justice William Brennan — established the so-called “one man, one vote” principle that revolutionized legislative districting.That, in turn, began a long-overdue process of restoring representativeness to state governments too long dominated by rural blocs — a situation that longtimeSouth Floridaresidents will recall all too well.Baker v. Carr centered on the badly apportioned Tennessee Legislature, but the principle — that elected officials represent people, not trees or cows — was applicable nationwide.Unfortunately, persuading those who wield power to yield power is never easy. InFlorida, the state Senate’s rural bloc, which urban newspapers dubbed “the Pork Chop Gang,” resisted until federal judges forced the issue.The Legislature’s 2012 round of redistricting would be quite different if lawmakers were not required to draw districts virtually equal in population. What might our Legislature look like if rural lawmakers had never been forced to loosen their grip?Miami-Dade’s 2.6 million residents would still have a single state senator. So would tinyJeffersonCounty, with about 14,400 residents. Moreover, state senators representing 2.7 million Floridians could outvote those representing the other 16.2 million.The redistricting wrought by Baker v. Carr — in Florida and elsewhere — led to other reforms revitalizing state governments too long indifferent to the problems of their states’ rapidly growing cities and suburbs.InFlorida, redistricting brought toTallahasseea group of reform-minded lawmakers who reorganized the state government’s executive and judicial branches and drafted a new state Constitution to replace the outdated 1885 version.It’s a bit ironic that it took a federal court ruling to revitalize state governments and render them better able to handle the responsibilities that the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment reserves for the states.The question now is whether the ruling came too late. Right after Baker v. Carr, LBJ’s “Great Society” and other congressional actions continued the vast expansion of federal power.Some of this occurred because frustrated officials in the nation’s cities and suburbs — their interests long neglected by rural-dominated state legislatures — had increasingly turned toWashingtonfor aid, even though it often came with onerous strings attached.So that era’s state governments — many as rural-dominated as Florida’s — arguably have only themselves to blame for much of this power shift from state capitals to the feds.Moreover, there was also a shameful period when the term “states’ rights” unfortunately became synonymous with resistance to securing the rights the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all Americans, so the feds rightly intervened.On many issues, however, the trend toward an all-powerful central government has had major downsides, shifting decisions toWashingtonand away from the levels of government closest to the people.The problems inherent in ceding too much power to the feds were evident in the states’ legal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. To continue receiving the federal aid, states must jump through all of the hoops Congress dreams up.It’s a precedent set long ago with federal aid for education and transportation. With Medicaid, however, the sums are now so enormous — and so crucial to the states’ budgets — that rejecting federal aid is simply not an option.The states persuasively argue that this amounts to coercion, turning states into little more than administrative districts for the feds. That, in turn, makes states’ elected officials little more than puppets, arguably a violation of the Constitution’s provision guaranteeing states a republican form of government — that is, government controlled by the voters’ elected representatives, not the dictates of distant bureaucrats.I doubt that this is the outcome Justice Brennan had in mind when he wrote the Baker v. Carr ruling. Although it was the right call, the question now — with states’ 10th Amendment rights increasingly in jeopardy — is whether it came too late.