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Florida redistricting would lump two Pinellas cities with Hillsborough voters

Two Pinellas County cities are bucking a state legislative redistricting proposal that puts their entire communities in a predominantly Hillsborough County district.

The governing bodies of both Safety Harbor and Oldsmar adopted resolutions this week against proposals that would make them part of House District 64. They're concerned that their communities won't be properly represented.

"We have more in common with Pinellas County than Hillsborough and our concern is we wouldn't be fairly represented," said Oldsmar Mayor Jim Ronecker,

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold, who called a special city meeting to discuss the matter on Thursday, said the communities, which each have their own special identities, need a representative who's familiar with Pinellas.

"I don't know how one state House representative from a predominantly Hillsborough County district could effectively represent the needs of Pinellas communities that are even diverse from each other," Steingold said.

State Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, isn't happy, either.

"I represent the majority of Safety Harbor and I wanted to get the rest of it, not lose it all," said Hooper, who is the District 50 representative.

A portion of unincorporated East Lake east of East Lake Road also would be in the new District 64.

Oldsmar is in current House District 48, represented by state Rep. Peter Nehr. Northern Safety Harbor is also in that district.

The new redistricting effort comes after the 2010 census and is complicated this time by voter-approved Fair Districts constitutional amendments, which prohibit lawmakers from protecting incumbents and political parties and require them to protect minority voting strength and keep county and city boundaries intact whenever possible.

The aim is to divide the state's 18.8 million residents into 120 House districts, 40 Senate districts and 27 congressional districts.

Hooper said he understands it won't be easy to tweak new maps to satisfy two cities. The ideal population for each House district is a little under 157,000, so moving one line could create a domino effect, he said.

Both cities have sent copies of their resolutions and letters of opposition to Pinellas County's legislative delegation and to the House's redistricting committee. But city officials won't know if their opposition will make a difference until at least next week.

The state Senate approved new maps on Tuesday. The House Redistricting Committee met on Friday. It accepted the Senate's map and narrowed down proposals for redrawing state House seats and congressional seats, said Ryan Duffy, House spokesman.

Oldsmar and Safety Harbor's concern didn't come up in committee discussion. The committee is expected to vote on the new maps next week. A vote by the full House will take place after that, but no specific date has been set, Duffy said.

Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau writer Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155. Go to tampabay.com/letters to write a letter to the editor.

Florida redistricting would lump two Pinellas cities with Hillsborough voters 01/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, January 20, 2012 7:51pm]
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