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House has its own plan for Senate

Time was when the clubby Florida Senate divided up the state pretty much the way its members wanted.

That time may have passed, state House members seem to be saying. House Democrats on Friday came up with their own plan for reapportioning the Senate.

And House members, typically younger and less powerful than senators, weren't showing much respect for their elders.

For one thing, the Democratic-sponsored House plan appears to place two longtime Pinellas Republican senators, Mary Grizzle and Curt Kiser, in the same district, according to analysts. If the House plan was adopted, one of them would have to quit or move and run from another district.

Grizzle said it's unusual for the House to seriously push a Senate reapportionment plan. But she said she's not worrying about this one yet. She termed the House plan "just old hat kind of shenanigans." The Legislature reapportions itself every 10 years.

This time around, Democrats in the House apparently are trying to use their Senate plan to pressure for more minority districts. Significantly, the House plan also lumps together veteran senators Jack Gordon of Miami Beach and Jim Scott of Fort Lauderdale. Gordon is the chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee. He termed the House plan "silly."

But the House version has a serious side:While the Senate plan contains two districts that are likely to elect a black candidate, the House plan contains four, plus two others that create significant influence for black voters.

The House plan's chief architect, state Rep. Jim Burke, D-Miami, stopped short of saying that the Senate plan fails to comply with federal minority-voting standards. But, Burke said, "I think it could be done better if they did it the way we did it."

The House plan was released Friday morning, while senators were passing their Democratic-drawn reapportionment plan out of a subcommittee.

During the subcommittee meeting, Kiser tried and failed to win approval of a Republican-sponsored Senate plan that also would create more black-oriented districts. Kiser harshly criticized the Senate Democratic plan, saying it was intended to keep "black votes on the white Democrat plantation."

But state Sen. Arnett Girardeau, D-Jacksonville, who is black, said Kiser's plan wouldn't increase black numbers in the Senate. He termed the plan a "hoax" designed to elect more GOP senators. "They are not enhancing the opportunity of minorities to get elected," Girardeau said.

The debate over minority districts might produce changes in the Senate Democratic plan, however. After Friday's subcommittee meeting, Gordon said Senate Democrats likely would create a third black-oriented seat in their plan if it proved to be feasible. That probably would be in Broward County, Gordon said.

But he made it clear that the Senate might resort to pressure tactics too.

If House members seriously push their Senate plan, senators will likely produce a plan for redistricting the House, Gordon said. "We managed to get four of their members in one district at one point," Gordon said.