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House rejects attempt to restore Palm Beach and Broward district configuration

Despite appeals by county officials and lawmakers from Palm Beach and Broward counties, the House Reapportionment Committee on Thursday rejected an amendment to the base map by Rep. David Kerner, D-West Palm Beach, that would reconfigure their congressional districts in a way that stretches across county borders, rather than in a more compact configuration.

"We get one chance to amend these maps, we've got communities coming out and saying we want our maps to be shaped vertically,'' Kerner said. "...That's why I'm here today."

Kerner echoed the complaints of Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, that in the rush to adopt a new map, "there has to be room in this process for our constituents to have input,'' he said. He argued that the court did not strike down the districts based its lack of compactness but because of illegal partisan intent."

His amendment would have revised the proposed base map to reconfigure Districts 20 and 21 to align them in a vertical direction, exactly as proposed in the version rejected by the Florida Supreme Court last year. The base map instead consolidates the county in a way that makes it more compact. The amendment was rejected on a voice vote.

Kerner said he consulted on his proposal with House staff members, as well as former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein.

"I don't know how the districts perform I don't want to know. I haven't researched that,'' he said. But he urged them to adopt the previous version because it keeps communities of interest together.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a former mayor of Boca Raton, told the committee that the previous configuration of the county better represents the county's needs because it provides them with more congressmen and the coastal part of the county does not have "much in common" with the western half.

Daniel Martell, president of the economic council of Palm BeachCounty, agreed, saying the base maps fail to recognize the coastal areas and western areas "really have not much in common."

Tim Ryan, mayor of broward county, former state legislator, urged the committee to adopt the amendment, saying the FSC opinion focuses on "political and natural boundaries"

Rep. Jose Oliva, the House Reapportionment chairman, said he supported Kerner's amendment and voted for it when he supported the original plan but "the court in its findings said these districts had to be redrawn. The only specific direction that it gave is these districts had to be more compact" and the resulting configuration is the only way.

He said he would support another alternative if it can be offered by the time they take up the map on the floor of the House next week.