Lawmakers consider more maps as redistricting clock counts down

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With a little more than a day left in the Special Session, lawmakers scrambled to come up with a redrawn Florida Senate district map that will pass court muster, but also get enough votes to pass out of the Legislature.

Senators from both parties, however, didn’t like what they saw at a Thursday morning meeting, in which staff members presented still more alternative boundaries for the South Florida seats.

State Sen. Bill Galvano and state Rep. Jose Oliva, the two Republicans who chair their respective redistricting panels, heard a review of the latest maps and adjourned to go over them.

Galvano told reporters it was possible they could get a final map to both floors by Thursday night. But critics still held their noses at the proposed Miami-Dade seats.

Oliva said he agreed with staff and outside experts that South Florida Hispanics wouldn’t be “diminished” in being able to elect a candidate of their choosing.

State Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami-Dade Republican, disagreed. He had offered amended districts for his county that were eventually voted onto the map that passed the Senate last week.

“I think what they’re doing is clearly packing Hispanics in two of the three Hispanic seats,” he said of Thursday’s proposals. “And these are contiguous districts in which it would be real easy to evenly distribute the population.”

When asked whether he could support any of the maps presented at the meeting, he answered, “No.”

State Sen. Oscar Braynon II, the Miami Gardens Democrat who is vice chair of the redistricting panel, said he didn’t expect any of the Thursday maps would get a majority of votes in the Senate.

The version of the map the Senate passed last week was approved on a close vote of 22-18, with all 14 Democrats and four Republicans opposed.

Take away Diaz de la Portilla and Sen. Rene Garcia, another Miami-Dade Republican who questioned the latest boundaries, and the Senate vote count goes down to 20-20.

“You don’t have Sen. Diaz de la Portilla; you don’t have me,” Braynon said. “There were concerns brought up … and I don’t think any of them were dealt with.” Oliva and Galvano agreed to deal only with South Florida.

“It seems like a long haul,” he said. “But they haven’t made a decision yet … we don’t know what could come from this.”

The latest Special Session is set to end 3 p.m. Friday. It was called to reconfigure the state Senate’s 40 districts after a court challenge.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and others alleged that the current map was gerrymandered to favor Republicans and incumbents. The Senate settled the case by admitting fault and agreeing to redraw the lines.

Any map the Legislature eventually produces still must be approved by the Florida Supreme Court.

Jim Rosica

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 [email protected]


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