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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House, Senate agree to 'five to six' base maps, recorded meetings in Senate redistricting



Florida House and Senate leaders have agreed to the basic terms of drawing "base maps," the starting points for a Senate redistricting special session next month.

Letters between House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, and Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, show changes from the congressional redistricting process in August, which could give senators more options and more control over the configuration of the districts where they will have to run for reelection.

The biggest difference is that House and Senate staff will draw multiple base Senate maps in consultation with attorneys. The congressional redistricting process used just one map, which the House was reluctant to change, even as members of the Senate proposed amendments making dramatic shifts.

All conversations with House and Senate redistricting staff will also be recorded. During congressional redistricting, only Senate conversations were recorded, but the House has agreed to follow the Senate's procedures, as they are drawing the Senate's map.

Galvano confirmed to the Times/Herald that staff will draw "five or six" such maps as a starting point for the redistricting special session Oct. 19-Nov. 6.

"I believe such an approach will provide members with a contrast that will illuminate how the Senate districts might be drawn while providiging the members with options for consideration and improvement," Galvano write in a letter to Oliva on Sept. 17.

In response, Oliva wrote Sept. 18 that the methodologies should come from the Fair Districts constitutional amendments that are meant to prevent gerrymandering or any partisan intent in drawing the maps. Those same constitutional provisions led the Supreme Court to throw out congresisonal maps. The Senate agreed to redraw its district maps.

Galvano and Oliva agreed on the procedures Monday, and Galvano wrote that the Senate's lawyers will begin conversations with mapdrawing staff, the first step toward finishing a base map.

The first letter from Galvano to Oliva hints at the discord that ended August's special session on congressional redistricting and resulted in the Legislature leaving Tallahassee without a final map. Court hearings began this week in Leon County to resolve those differences.

"I have reflected on the recent special session and the procedural challenges that we each had to deal with, as well as the impacts these challenges had on our collective abilities to work together to pass a single map," Galvano wrote.

The last day of that special session included a tense meeting between the two Republican redistricting chairs, which ended abruptly when Galvano and fellow senators walked out of the meeting room.

Senators and several House members running for the upper chamber in 2016 have much more at stake this time around, which is why the Legislature is unlikely to cede mapdrawing power to a judge.

"I appreciate the spirit of compromise reflected in your letter and your willingness to work with the House to produce a constitutional Senate map," Oliva wrote.

You can read the three letters between Oliva and Galvano herehere and here.

[Last modified: Friday, September 25, 2015 5:56pm]


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