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Citing politics, House leaders back off immunity legislation

Minutes after the incoming Senate President said he would vote against the proposal, the House is dropping its effort to clarify immunity that lawmakers have from lawsuits.

Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, said he would vote against House Bill 7123 if it comes to the Senate because opponents of reapportionment had politicized the issue. Now, Rep. Gary Aubuchon, chairman of the House's Rules & Calendar Committee, said he won't allow House Bill 7123 to be heard in his committee this year for those same reasons.

"I would encourage returning members to take the issue up next year once the issue regarding redistricting and those issues have been resolved," Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral said.

But he also strongly denied that the immunity issue was raised this year as an effort to prevent legislators from defending the reapportionment process in court.

House Speaker Dean Cannon also released a strongly worded statement condemning those who linked the immunity proposal to the upcoming court battles over redistricting.

"The hysterical reaction we’ve witnessed over the last few days has been ill-informed and politically-motivated," Cannon, R-Winter Park, said. "Unfortunately, a debate this year on this subject will never be free of partisan rancor, blatant political opportunism, and unrestrained hypocrisy on the part of those who wish to discredit the most open and transparent redistricting process in Florida’s history."