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House Democrats frustrated by canceled redistricting meetings

House Democrats criticized Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, on Tuesday for canceling redistricting meetings this week, saying they wasted expensive trips to the Capitol at the expense of taxpayers and are frustrated by the lack of maps.

"I get up here today and I find out when I got here that my meeting for tomorrow has been canceled ...," said Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, and member of the House redistricting subcommittee. "But we come up here and it is strenous. I want to tell you, it is not easy for people, particularly coming from South Florida, to get here to Tallahassee. And I'm just concerned with the amount of money that's being expended. We've got all these deficits and what have you, but we're able to spend all this money coming back and forth and nothing happening."

"I'm concerned about getting these maps going and getting these maps out to the public," said Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, who sits on the House congressional redistricting subcommittee.

Their comments came during the House Democratic Caucus meeting on Tuesday.

The Senate's redistricting committee met Tuesday afternoon. So why did Weatherford, a future House speaker, call off this week's meetings?

"Chairman Weatherford felt that our committee staff needed more time to prepare the redistricting map options that the members would begin reviewing in the November 17 meeting," wrote Katie Betta, spokeswoman for House Speaker Dean Cannon.

Betta said members were informed of the canceled meetings on Thursday.

The canceled meetings go beyond redistricing committees, though. Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach, suggested a boycott of committees since they are not yet taking up substantial bills or maps.

"Just don't come to Tallahassee," he said. "You know, folks, we are stealing the people's money right here."

Garcia said even a two-day trip to Tallahassee costs the state about $1,300. He was supposed to have two committee meetings -- Education, K-20 Competitiveness and Health and Human Services Access -- on Wednesday that were scheduled but will not be held.

"What are we doing? I got here, I was supposed to have at first four committees, OK? And two of them got canceled," he said. "All we're doing is listening to reports."

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