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House readies to scrub Senate redistricting plan of Hillsborough changes

The Florida House is preparing to reject the Florida Senate's plan to create an East Hillsborough County-based Congressional district championed by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

House redistricting leader Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, submitted a new amendment to a plan the two chambers are working on that strips Lee's proposal to most of eastern and southern Hillsborough into the 15th Congressional district, now represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland.

Instead Oliva's plan returns the map to the original plan, which would shift 150,000 southern Hillsborough residents into the 17th District, represented now by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. That in turn would force Sarasota County to be split into two Congressional districts for the first time in decades. The southern half of Sarasota County would be represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who lives in Okeechobee County.

Oliva's new amendment is expected to before the House later today. If adopted, it would require the Senate to reconvene to consider Oliva's proposal. If the House had accepted the Lee amendment, it would have ended the Special Session on congressional redistricting.

The question now is how the Senate responds. Lee said yesterday that while he wanted his changes to stick, he conceeded that even if the base map put southern Hillsborough into the Buchanan district, it was better than the current situation given southern Hillsborough is now represented by someone as far away as Rooney. He said southern Hillsborough has a lot more in common with Manatee and Sarasota than the mostly rural central Florida district Rooney has now.

Oliva's plan has additional changes, particularly for South Florida. All of the city of Sunrise would be in the 20th Congressional District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar. In the Senate plan and a previous House supported plan, Sunrise would have been divided, with part of the city in the 22nd District, which is now represented by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

Current district maps have the 90,000 people of Sunrise split three ways. Hastings, Frankel and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, all have a piece of that community.

Oliva's plan also moves all of Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County into Hastings's district. Under the earlier plan parts of that city east of U.S. Highway 1 would be in the 21st District, which would be represented by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.