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15 state House members to miss start of session

Fifteen members of the state House of Representatives have been excused from the start of Wednesday's extraordinary legislative session on reapportionment. Five no-shows are Democrats and 10 are Republicans, including Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, who just completed a grueling session as chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers offered a variety of excuses, from business meetings to out of state commitments.

The session is necessary because the Florida Supreme Court rejected a Senate map of Senate districts as unconstitutional, and eight of the 40 districts must be redrawn. Justices also ordered a new odd-even district numbering system that does not favor incumbents. The House is largely a bystander at the start of this session, and House members are not scheduled to take any floor votes until late next week.

Democrats who are excused are Reps. Jeff Clemens, Janet Cruz, Luis Garcia, Scott Randolph and Elaine Schwartz. Republicans who won't be in Tallahassee, in addition to Grimsley, are Reps. Marti Coley, Fred Costello, Daniel Davis, Erik Fresen, Bill Hager, Debbie Mayfield, Seth McKeel, Ronald (Doc) Renuart and Greg Steube. 

Costello, a dentist in Ormond Beach, told the House he has 50 patients waiting to see him. Schwartz cited commitments at her Hollywood law office. Garcia, who's running for Congress, cited personal reasons.

The most interesting excuse came from Steube, a freshman Republican from Sarasota. "I respectfully ask for an excusal on March 14, 2012 ... due to my wedding on March 17," wrote Steube, a 33-year-old lawyer. "I greatly appreciate your consideration of this request."

-- Steve Bousquet

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