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Redistricting special session implodes with no agreement

Published Aug. 21, 2015

As Hurricane Danny strengthened to a category 2 storm, the tempest brewing in Tallahassee over redrawing the state's 27 congressional district maps intensified, as well.

The Florida House at 11:10 a.m. Friday dug its heels in, reiterating its push for its own base map and further widening the rift between the House and Senate. They also refused by a 99-3 vote to extend the special session to 6 p.m. Tuesday, which the Senate passed minutes earlier. The session will end at noon Friday.

"I can tell you with all honesty, I did not expect to be standing here today," said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, the House redistricting committee chairman.

The move came just hours after senators walked out of a heated meeting with Oliva. Negotiations over congressional district maps have broken down over changes the Senate made that put Sarasota County completely within one district and moved District 15 to include all of eastern and southern Hillsborough County.

"What you saw was a disagreement over what is constitutional," Oliva said. "But what you also saw near the end of that meeting was the loss of that cordiality which was so important to this process."

Lawmakers have had since Aug. 10 to agree to new maps. The disagreement and inability to reach a compromise by their self-imposed deadline of noon today has led to consternation among many.

Before convening on the House floor, the Democratic Caucus met, and members were frustrated that the endgame at this point is unclear.

"WTF?" said Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, choosing not to swear but clearly aggravated. "Seriously, I don't see us staying through Tuesday and it having any different outcome than we've seen so far."

Throughout the special session on redistricting, House and Senate leaders have repeatedly said that they did not anticipate disagreement or that the session would not be wrapped up by noon.

But those intentions had been blown away Friday afternoon as House members took the floor of their chamber. Even some Democrats — just months ago allied with the Senate over Medicaid expansion — started criticizing the upper chamber.