Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tense debate over Florida Senate map yields no agreement

TALLAHASSEE — The day began with the Senate redistricting chairman offering bagels and cream cheese to his colleagues, but the magnanimous gesture was short-lived as Republicans intensely feuded over how to draw maps for the next decade.

After nine hours of grueling debate on Tuesday, the Republican-dominated Senate Reapportionment Committee could not agree on anything. Committee chairman Don Gaetz decided to reconvene the committee again today for six more hours.

"This happens once every 10 years,'' said Gaetz icily at the end of the meeting, his pleasant demeanor tested by the long debate. "I don't consider it angst. I consider it a thoughtful, deliberative process."

The map proposed on Saturday by Gaetz, R-Niceville, remained the only proposal in play, despite attempts by a handful of senators to reconfigure it to shift Hispanic districts in Miami or Republican districts in Central Florida.

Gaetz's plan would create 23 solid Republican districts, hand over three more districts to Democrats, bringing their total to 15, and create at least two competitive seats.

Alternative maps proposed by Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater were withdrawn, only to have their sponsors suggest they would bring them up again on Thursday when Gaetz's map comes up for a floor vote.

Unlike the last round, this is the Senate's last shot to design a map that complies with the new anti-gerrymandering standards approved by voters and fixes objections outlined by the Florida Supreme Court.

The court rejected the Senate map, but approved the House map. If the Senate plan doesn't get court approval this time, the court itself will draw the Senate map.

Under the House map, at least 38 incumbent legislators must move or be pitted against other lawmakers.

Under Gaetz's plan, only four senators would face that fate. Sens. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, are drawn into a coastal district that stretches from Boynton Beach to Fort Lauderdale. Sens. David Simmons, R-Maitland, and Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, are pitted against each other in an Orlando-based district.

Diaz de la Portilla's proposed map would create a strong fourth Hispanic-dominated seat and break up the district now held by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami. Margolis demanded the proposal be evaluated based on the effect it has on all Miami-Dade voters, not just Hispanics and blacks because, she argued, "Anglos have become a minority in Dade County."

But questions arose about the non-compact shape of other districts in the plan. Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, said one oddly-shaped district that stretched from Weston in Broward County, through Palm Beach and up to the Martin County border as "Jay Leno in a baseball cap" ran the risk "of having the Supreme Court object to it."

The all-day meeting was sparsely attended by the public, but, in a rare show of attentiveness, most senators remained seated and rapt.

The reason was clear: the once-a-decade drawing of political boundaries affects each of them more personally than most anything else they vote on. Legislators who are drawn out of their districts are mulling the possibility of buying or renting a new home to meet the residency requirements of their new districts.

More than once senators asked for clarification about the residency requirements to get elected. The answer came back the same: you have to live in the district when you take office.

In the audience were two House Democrats who each are eying a Senate seat, Reps. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach. Also in attendance was Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, whose organization is financing election campaigns to ensure that Republicans retain a strong majority in the Senate.

Gaetz's plan redesigned the eight districts the court singled out as invalid and attempted to fix the numbering system that the court rejected as biased in favor of incumbents.

But Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, suggested that the court also required the Senate to review election history and voting patterns of its minority districts to determine if they could actually elect minorities. The House had conducted a so-called "functional analysis" but the Senate staff failed to include the results in its presentation to senators.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, warned the committee that it was heading "down a slippery slope of mass confusion" with that debate. But Sen. Nancy Detert demanded that the committee be given the results. The staff scrambled to comply.

Gaetz also struggled to win support for his proposal for numbering districts. In a memo to senators, he suggested a lottery of sorts that would arrange to have a neutral, independent party decide which of the Senate's 40 districts get two-year terms and which get four-year terms. The constitution requires the Senate have staggered terms.

A tense debate followed as some senators accused the court of judicial activism while others rejected Gaetz's plan for a lottery.

But Gaetz urged them to agree to the change or risk tainting the plan again with allegations of incumbency protection. "There's going to be an aroma that will implicate the rest of the proposal," he warned.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and on Twitter@MaryEllenKlas

See the Senate maps at tampabay.com/redistricting

Tense debate over Florida Senate map yields no agreement 03/20/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 11:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.