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Florida House passes 'base' congressional maps

The Florida House on Tuesday approved new, Supreme Court-mandated maps of the state's 27 congressional districts, solidifying a rift with the Senate.

The map adopts district lines drawn by House and Senate staff based on the court's instructions to correct what it called unconstitutional partisan intent that would help Republicans gain control of more seats in Congress.

Redrawn maps passed the chamber 76-35, with most House Democrats and a few Republicans voting against it.

Consistently, House leaders have said they don't want to change the maps but feel the Supreme Court has tied their hands. Many Republicans who spoke up during debate said they don't support the map but feel they must address the court's constitutionality concerns.

"There is a map, which I believe gives us the best chance to pass constitutional muster and at least for us to do our job and our duty," said Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, "regardless of whether we feel the Supreme Court did theirs."

In the last two weeks, House members have rejected proposals to change the map, which would have put all of Sarasota County in one congressional district, rather than splitting it in the middle, and aligned districts in Palm Beach and Broward counties to run from north to south along the coast.

Still, Republicans from those counties supported the map.

"We're brought here precisely to tinker and to review and to study and to suggest better maps," said Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, who Monday introduced an amendment to unite Sarasota and the western part of Manatee counties in District 16. He supported the final map, saying he had the opportunity to change it, even though the attempt failed.

One cadre of Republican legislators opposed the map, saying that the Supreme Court's decision was unconstitutional overreach and that supporting a redrawn map mandated by the court would be tacit approval of a separation of powers violation. Among them were Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, who called for the impeachment of Supreme Court justices, and Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola.

"Our constitutions are under attack," Hill said. "The United States and Florida constitutions have been assaulted."

Many Democrats voted against the map, even after defending the Supreme Court's opinion forcing it to be redrawn.

"We're not here because of the Supreme Court, we're here because of the former leadership of this chamber. They violated the Constitution," said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, who voted against the map. "But we didn't do everything the Supreme Court asked, in my opinion."

Now, the map will go to the Senate, where lawmakers have already made changes to district boundaries in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties. The two chambers have until Friday to meet a self-imposed deadline for a map that they can both agree to.