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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House passes 'clarifying' amendment to Fair Districts



(From left, Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, and Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, react to the vote on HJR 7231. Photo by Scott Keeler, Times)

After a charged debate with political and racial overtones, the House passed a proposed constitutional amendment 74-40 that would “clarify” the intent of the citizen-driven “Fair Districts” proposals. The proposal would allow legislators to craft districts using “communities of interest,” such as race or coastal communities. Supporters say the legislative amendment is needed to preserve minority gains in the statehouse.

The Fair District amendments “will in effect eliminate the Legislature’s ability to draw many of the minority-access seats that are in effect today,” said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami.

Nearly all House Democrats spoke Monday against the measure. They argued the proposal would gut the Fair District amendments, which they say already protects minority rights. They argued the legislative amendment ensures Democrats will be a permanent minority.

“You can be selected to serve on the team and end up sitting on the bench for the entire game,” said Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando. “We have access but we have nominal power.”

Most Democratic lawmakers who are minorities opposed the Legislature’s proposal, but it does have two key supporters: Sens. Gary Siplin of Orlando and Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

(Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R- Miami, gives the thumbs up for passage of HJR 7231 Monday on the floor of the Florida House, which gives lawmakers more flexibility in drawing legislative districts. Photo by Scott Keeler, Times)

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:31am]


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