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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 4 months ago

Senate moves forward on new political maps

Both chambers are drawing congressional maps to be reviewed by the Reapportionment Committee on Jan. 13.
by: Jim Turner The News Service of Florida

 Florida senators wasted little time Monday, Jan. 10, advancing potential new district lines for themselves and the state’s growing congressional delegation as part of the once-a-decade reapportionment process.

Members of the Senate Select Committee on Congressional Reapportionment and the Select Committee on Legislative Reapportionment each sent two staff-recommended maps to the full Reapportionment Committee, which will take up the proposals on Thursday.

While proposed changes in state Senate lines (S 8046 and S 8050) could affect several incumbents in South Florida, particularly Sen. Ileana Garcia, R-Miami, Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, and Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, the biggest concerns raised Monday were over which Senate district would include rural Gilchrist County in North Florida and potential impacts to the minority-majority District 33 in Broward County.

“There just needs to be more discussion, more analysis on these maps,” said Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat who serves on the legislative reapportionment subcommittee.

Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, said the panel was charged with presenting “as focused and as narrow of an option as we could” to the full Reapportionment Committee.

The Senate is drawing Senate maps, while the House is drawing state House maps. Both chambers are drawing congressional maps.

Concerns continued to be raised Monday over the state House proposals, which have drawn more criticism about partisanship and are slated to be discussed on Tuesday.

Lisa Hall, president and CEO of the Fair Districts Coalition Executive Committee, wrote Monday to House Redistricting Chairman Tom Leek, R-Ormond Beach, about the need for “meaningful” opportunities for public comment. Florida voters in 2010 passed what are known as the Fair Districts constitutional amendments, which were designed to guide reapportionment.

Hall, who contends proposed House maps don’t appear to comply with the Fair Districts amendments or federal law, questioned holding meetings about the maps in the middle of the workday without an ability for people to remotely make appearances. At the same time, she questioned House subcommittees simultaneously holding meetings, making “it impossible or extremely difficult for a concerned citizen to attend both.”

“We ask that you provide opportunities for real public comment by real people on real maps which legislators can hear in real-time,” Hall wrote. “While we appreciate that you have created a public (online) portal, we also know that members have been discouraged from accepting comments entered on the portal unless they are familiar with the source of the comments.”

From 13 potential maps, including one filed by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, the Senate congressional reapportionment subcommittee on Monday backed two staff proposals (C 8038 and C 8040).

The Senate would create a new congressional district in Polk County that leans Republican, with few variations in South Florida and Central Florida. The state is receiving an additional district this year because of population growth in the U.S. Census.

The calculus is that while 16 districts went for former Republican President Donald Trump in 2020 and 12 for Democratic President Joe Biden, the GOP districts would grow to 17 under the Senate proposal.

"8038 and 8040 (the Senate’s congressional proposals) are more compact in all three mathematical measures, keep 10 additional cities whole and decrease the average use of non-political and geographic boundaries by three percentage points," said Jay Ferrin, staff director of the Senate Reapportionment Committee.

Rouson’s proposal focused mostly on Tampa.

Rouson sought to keep Congressional District 14, a seat held by Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, solely within Hillsborough County and to avoid splitting cities within Pinellas County, which are within District 13. Democrat Charlie Crist represents District 13 but is running for governor this year.

However, congressional reapportionment subcommittee Chairwoman Jennifer Bradley said Rouson’s proposal would reduce compactness for neighboring District 12 and District 15.

League of Women Voters of Florida President Cecile Scoon continued to maintain a need to use data that increases the ability of minority communities to elect people of their choice. The league is a member of the Fair Districts Coalition.

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