Galvano picks a map and offers up new idea for deciding who avoids re-election
Confusion and controversy continued to swamp the redistricting discussions Wednesday as one Senate Republican leader said he had “lost confidence’’ in the legal team while the redistricting chairman selected a draft map that several lawmakers said could be rejected by the courts as incumbency protection.
"I just don’t find any consistency in this. I think I’ve lost confidence," said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, after listening to answers from the Senate's legal team during the second day of hearings on Senate redistricting.
After the six-hour hearing, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, filed a proposed map, S9084, that will serve as the Senate's starting point on Friday, when the committee attempts to vote out a map. It was similar to S9078, one of six draft maps drawn by House and Senate staff in advance of the redistricting session that began on Monday.
Galvano, who has argued that not all senators will have to run for re-election in 2016 even if their districts are significantly revised by the new map, also offered two options for determining which Senate districts will escape re-election. If approved, at least 14 senators will not run until 2018, even if the new districts have them represent new communities.
He also rejected arguments from Democrats and some Republicans and included in his map a district that links black communities of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties by crossing Tampa Bay, similar to the district now held by Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner.
The Florida Supreme Court ordered lawmakers not to cross Tampa Bay when drawing the congressional map and Lee joined Democrats in arguing against it. Democrats allege the reason Republican legislators want to link the communities of Hillsborough and Pinellas is to protect GOP incumbents whose districts would otherwise lean Democratic.
"It’s my personal belief there is a political reason for not jumping the bay,’’ said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who submitted an alternate map that creates an African-American majority district in Hillsborough County without linking to black communities in South Pinellas County.
By linking black communities across Tampa Bay, legislators preserve a Republican-dominated seat in Pinellas County, similar to one now held by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.
Galvano's map not only preserve Brandes' seat, it also guarantees that fewer incumbents are pitted against each other than some of the staff-drawn base maps. Galvano, who had been paired with Lee in some of the previous draft maps, now carries a districts than moves South into Sarasota.
The map also allows Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Travis Hutson, John Legg, Denise Grimsley and Wilton Simpson to avoid being drawn into a district with other senators -- as had been the case in some of the draft maps.
Galvano said the numbering system may allow senators who are drawn together into a district with another senator to avoid having to move until they are up for re-election – in some cases 2018.
According to the Senate rule adopted in 2014, a senator must reside in his or her district at the time of election. However, the rule silent as to what happens when the district changes in mid-term.
“If the decision of the court is if you’re in a term and you run out that term, I don’t think you would have to move,’’ he said after the meeting, adding he needed to verify this with Senate lawyers.
Galvano also announced the Senate will use a second method for determining which districts will be given the even-numbered designation and the committee will choose which approach to use on Friday.
The state’s auditor general will “randomly assign district numbers” the same way it randomly selects lobbyists for audit, Galvano wrote in a memo to senators. The selection process for the alternate system will happen Thursday morning.
Lee and Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, complained the Senate has failed to address the complaints by the challengers, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning plaintiffs who sued the Senate for violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution when it drew the 2012 redistricting map.
The Legislature agreed to settle the lawsuit and returned this week for a three-week special session to redraw the map.
The Senate lawyers said its legal theory is based on the notion that the plaintiffs’ complaints are just allegations and they are ignoring them and starting over in redrawing the Senate maps. But Lee insisted that was a bad idea that could prompt the court to reject their map.
"All of these maps may have changed but the concepts that the plaintiffs found unconstitutional have not always been addressed in these maps,’’ he said.
Galvano, and the Senate’s lead attorney, former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero, responded that while the Legislature admitted the enacted map was unconstitutional, they did not admit to the allegations brought by the challengers.
The Legislature must justify its own map and “not necessarily accepting the plaintiffs’ version of facts,’’ Cantero said.
Galvano insisted all the proposals were constitutional. “Everybody’s trying their absolute hardest to do the best job possible to produce a legislatively compliant map,’’ he said.
But David King, the lead lawyer for the league, said in a letter to the Senate Tuesday that they were “disappointed to learn’’ that the six draft maps proposed by the House and Senate staff did not take into account the plaintiffs’ objections. He also noted that rather than adhere to the guidelines set out in the Fair Districts amendments the Legislature’s proposed maps "reflect new methodologies and approaches."
During the committee discussion, however, Cantero relied on the plaintiffs’ complaint to defend his reason for not changing the district numbering system, which will allow senators to have new districts without having to run for re-election.
"There is nothing in the complaint that objects to the numbering system so the system that is used is based on a random drawing process,’’ Cantero told the committee.
He said the Senate should retain the system adopted in 2012 that allowed even-number Senate districts to have four-year terms in 2014, even though the Senate agreed those districts are unconstitutional.
"No Florida case has said that senators have to truncate their terms twice or more times during one 10-year period," he said.
The new numbers would be determined by using a mathematical formula created by Redistricting Staff Director Jay Ferrin, using a system that measures the percentage of population from their existing districts with that in their new districts.
Lee became agitated at the suggestion.
"We just want to keep wanting to have it both ways,'' he snapped. "I just feel like every time we get an answer we’re living in an alternative universe here. We know what we want the answer to be but it never comes out that way."
Clemens also blasted the idea.
"I think we’re risking tanking this entire process by taking an action that could protect incumbents,’’ he said. "It’s my belief that this numbering scheme is incumbent protection.” and to not have certain people run in 2016 is a clear violation of the [Supreme Court] mandates ."