Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senate redistricting committee okays new maps

Florida Sen.  Rene Garcia looks at a map for proposed changes in congressional districts during a Senate committee meeting Wednesday. The proposals redraw the political lines for the next 10 years.

Associated Press

Florida Sen. Rene Garcia looks at a map for proposed changes in congressional districts during a Senate committee meeting Wednesday. The proposals redraw the political lines for the next 10 years.

TALLAHASSEE — After a bitter debate over a last-minute map produced and withdrawn by Democrats, the Senate Reapportionment Committee on Wednesday voted out its proposals to redraw the political lines for the Senate and Congress for the next 10 years.

The proposals will create a new Hispanic congressional seat in Central Florida, leave intact all of the African-American minority seats in Congress and the state Senate, and retain the Republican majority in both the Senate and congressional delegations.

If adopted by the full Senate next week, as expected, the bills will move to the House where legislative leaders hope they will get final resolution by the end of the month. The legislative maps will then be sent to the Florida Supreme Court, as required, and the congressional map will go to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature.

The court has 30 days to approve or reject the proposal and lawmakers want a chance to rewrite it, if necessary, before session ends March 9.

"Should there be any areas in which the Supreme Court to have another look at the maps, my hope is we could do that while we're still in session,'' said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, chairman of the committee. "I don't want to come back for a redistricting session."

Prior to the meeting, Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, submitted two alternative maps. Her proposals, written with the help of the Florida Democratic Party, would create two more Democrat-leaning districts than the Republican proposals.

But the proposals unleashed the partisan hostility that had been pent up since the process began seven months ago. Rich abruptly withdrew the amendments, saying instead that she will resubmit them as an amendment when the full chamber votes on the measure Jan. 17.

"I believe we can do better in reconciling the Voting Rights Act and the constitutional amendments,'' she said, a reference to the newly adopted Fair Districts amendments that prohibit legislators from protecting incumbents or political parties when drawing maps.

The suggestion that senators would be asked to vote on a fresh map they will have only had the weekend to see drew sharp rebukes from Republicans on the committee.

"I am totally discontent and unhappy with the way this has been handled to get a massive change to a map that I have no idea what it is,'' said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach.

But it was clear that Rich didn't even have the support of her own members for her plan. Her congressional map, for example, would have ended the seven-county stretch that now comprises the district held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and make it more compact but, in turn, reduce the percentage of black voters from 49 percent to 36 percent.

"This would have clearly diminished the ability for African-Americans to be elected to office,'' said Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, whose district would have gone from more than 50 percent black under the Senate map to 20 percent black under Rich's plan. Bullard's son hopes to replace her when she leaves because of term limits.

Unlike the Republican map, Rich said, the Senate map creates a new minority access seat in Palm Beach County, which could elect another black to the Senate.

Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith came to Rich's defense and in a statement said he believed her maps comply with the requirements of the new Fair Districts requirements in the Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.

Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry immediately seized on the Democrats' remarks as "an outrageous demonstration of hypocrisy."

"Florida Democrats say one thing while doing another by pushing maps that favor Democrats and diminish the possibility of African-Americans representing their communities of interest,'' he said.

The committee voted 22-4 in favor of the Senate map, with four of the 10 Democrats opposed: Rich, Maria Sachs of Boca Raton, Oscar Braynon of Miami and Arthenia Joyner of Tampa.

According to a Times/Herald analysis, the map of the 40-member Senate creates 24 Republican-leaning districts, sacrificing Republican strength in areas now held by 11 of the senators leaving because of term limits. It includes 14 Democrat-leaning districts and two competitive districts that could be considered a toss-up. The map creates a new Hispanic access seat in Central Florida and eight of the districts have 50 percent or more minority voters.

The map could result in some of the chamber's 29 Republicans facing more competitive races in the 40-member House in the 2012 elections.

But it is sure to preserve the Republican majority in both the Senate and the congressional delegation.

The congressional map, approved by the committee 21-5, creates 15 Republican-leaning districts, 10 Democrat-leaning districts and two competitive districts.

Senate redistricting committee okays new maps 01/11/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:00am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Power struggle: Latvala targets Putnam's large donations from electric utilities


    TALLAHASSEE — The 2018 race for Florida governor will be about power — not just political power, but electric power.

    Scott Crellin, a trouble man for Duke Energy, works to cut tree limbs from a Tarpon Springs power line after Hurricane Irma. The utility's problems with getting power restored after the storm, and it's contributions to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's campaign for governor, have become an issue in the governor's race. [CHRIS URSO  |   Times]

  2. Authors R.L. Stine, Neil DeGrasse Tyson coming to Tampa Bay this week


    AUTHORS: Neil deGrasse Tyson, R. L. Stine, Finn Murphy

    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12:  Author R.L. Stine attends “Goosebumps” New York premiere at AMC Empire 25 theater on October 12, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
  3. Brothers' fatal shootout at Plant City ranch draws lawsuit from survivor


    TAMPA — George "Terry" Long escaped with his life last spring when his wife's ex-husband tried to gun him down at Plant City's Rocking V Ranch.

    This Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office photo shows part of the scene at the Rocking V ranch in Plant City where two brothers were shot dead April 15 during a family confrontation. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Florida Gators' Jordan Sherit out for the year after hip surgery


    Florida Gators defensive lineman Jordan Sherit will miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery earlier this week, coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday morning.

    "It's a bad deal, man," McElwain said.

  5. 5 things to do under $5: Wiener dog racing, Streetcar Festival, Clearwater chalk art, Dia De Los Muertos


    1Wienerfest: They had us at wiener dog racing. This day devoted to dachshunds features racing, a dog costume contest, food trucks, photo booth and raffles at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday. Leashed dogs of all breeds welcome. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Free admission. (407) …

    An entry in the costume contest from 2015's annual Dia de los Muertos Fiesta, or Day of the Dead Festival, hosted by Casa Tina's Mexican Restaurant.
photo courtesy Mikell Herrick