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Staff explains base map and reasons for some divided counties

The three men responsible for drawing the state's latest congressional map, told legislators they made their decisions without any input from lawmakers and divided cities and counties.

Jay Ferrin, director of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, Jason Poreda, director of the House Reapportionment Committee, and Jeff Takacs, special advisor to the House, said they took a week to develop the so-called "base map" in response to the court ruling but also drew 31 drafts they rejected.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner ordered the three staff members sequestered as they prepared the map that would serve as the starting point for the legislative session.

The leaders said they needed to isolate the staff to prove to the court that they were not building a map to protect incumbents or political parties.

Several legislators commended the staff while some lamented the fact that they had no input so far.

"I know how complicated this is,'' said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. "…We have essentially relegated 20 million people's future to three men."

Ferrin said they began with District 5 and moved from there. He justified the new configuration of Districts 13 and 14 as done by filling in PinellasCounty from the south and moving to the Clearwater area.

They goal was to keep entire city of Tampa whole and the result is it is "significantly more compact" than the predecessor district. But, by doing that, neighboring District 12 was 11,451 people short.

By shifting population to fill the required numbers, they were forced to split the City of Clearwater.

"There was little or no area that would have not split the city along the lines here,'' he said.

The court also ordered the legislature not to divide the City of Homestead so they moved the entire city to District 26, now held by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami.

To comply with the court order that Districts 21 and 22 in Palm Beach and Broward counties be redrawn to make them more compact, he said they had few options because of the need to keep whole District 20, held by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale.