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Steve Crisafulli refuses another Special Session to redraw congressional districts

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says his chamber won’t back down from its version of a redrawn congressional map and thus won’t agree to convene in another Special Session.

In a memo to members on Tuesday, Crisafulli – a Merritt Island Republican – did say he’d be OK with the Florida Senate coming back and approving the House map.

The two-page letter pretty much puts to bed any hope of another Special Session for both chambers to agree on a new map for Florida’s 27 congressional districts.

Candidate qualifying for congressional office is set for June 20-24, according to the state’s elections website. Moreover, a Special Session to redraw the state Senate districts is fast approaching on Oct. 19 to Nov. 6.

Here’s the memo:

Early last week, I sent a response to President Gardiner’s request for a meeting to discuss the map that (Senate redistricting) Chair (Bill) Galvano emailed to Senators after the conclusion of Special Session B. I respect President (Andy) Gardiner and agree that the ideal option for the Legislature is to present the court with a map that passed both Chambers, but I do not believe we have fully resolved the fundamental differences that prevented the adoption of a map during Special Session.

… (I)f the Supreme Court were to give us more time, we might be able to meet to hash out remaining concerns with the post-session map offered by Chair Galvano. In redistricting, unlike other legislative matters, the final arbiter of legislative intent is the Florida Supreme Court. We differ on how much flexibility is afforded to the Legislature as a result of Article III, Section 20 of the Florida Constitution and the accompanying court decisions.

On Friday, the Supreme Court responded to the House’s motion on a number of issues relating to how we move forward. The Supreme Court granted the main requests in our motion, which include an evidentiary hearing to present the House and Senate maps to (Circuit) Judge (Terry) Lewis for consideration. We were not given any more time to complete our work, although the Court noted that the Legislature may reconvene to enact a map prior to the hearing before Judge Lewis.

There is no additional information or different legal guidance since the end of Session that convinces me or (House redistricting) Chair (Jose) Oliva that the House should change its position. We continue to maintain that the base map, with the House amendment that incorporated some of the Senate’s changes, is the best map to present to Judge Lewis.

It is possible that the Senate will agree to another Special Session to pass the map that the House adopted with overwhelming and bipartisan support. However, if the Senate continues to maintain its position that the Florida Constitution … gives members more leeway to influence regions of the map for community interests, then we can bring our maps to the Court for further guidance.

Either way, I am confident that the House is taking the right action based on all the facts before us….

Two weeks ago, Gardiner had asked for a public meeting with Crisafulli, Galvano and Oliva. Galvano had offered still another map that puts the southern flank of eastern Hillsborough County back into the 16th Congressional District, now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

Previously, the Senate backed a map by state Sen. Tom Lee that put all of eastern Hillsborough into the 15th District, now held by Republican Dennis Ross. It also drew Ross out of his district, putting Ross’ residence across the street from the new boundary line.

House leaders had said that Senate map almost certainly would be ruled unconstitutional because it favors Hillsborough at the expense of portions of central Florida.

Relations between the two GOP-controlled chambers have been strained since the Regular Legislative Session, which ended without a 2015-2016 state budget because of disagreements on Medicaid expansion and funding for hospitals’ charity care. Lawmakers had to return in a Special Session to finish the yearly spending plan.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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