November 05, 2015

Richard Corcoran: 'the system is broken'; time to consider independent redistricting commission

As the special session on congressional redistrict was imploding in August, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, a former Senate president, declared: "Bring me something that works." 

Now, after a second special session imploded Thursday and legislators left town without an agreement on a redistricting map to draw state Senate boundaries, incoming House speaker Richard Corcoran and House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva are also on board. 

"The system is completely broken and it needs to be fixed and I’m completely open to a commission,’’ Corcoran, R-New Port Richey, told the Herald/Times.

Oliva is skeptical that anyone will be unbiased, said he is also open to the notion.

"I'm for looking into it because I certainly think we need to have maps that aren't disputed into the next census,'' Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, told reporters after the session ended. 

"I'm not as optimistic that those people will be so significantly more impartial than these people,'' he said. 

Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who has proposed a bill creating an independent commission to handle the state's redistricting, said he has been approached by several Republicans who are ready to consider taking the job away from legislators.

"The Legislature is incapable of drawing its own maps that don't have political intent,'' he said. "You can't put 40 people together and have them set aside their own personal viewpoints and ambitions to have an unbiased process. It's just simply impossible."

But David King, attorney for the coalition that led the legal challenge, said lawmakers should not blame the Fair Districts amendments, which were approved by 63 percent of the voters in the 2010 election, for their inability to reach an agreement.

"Change is very hard to accept — especially when it requires our elected officials to set aside their own personal interests,’’ he said in a statement. "By blaming the amendments, rather than themselves, they are simply perpetuating their opposition to the will of the people and engaging in the very conduct that Florida voters clearly wanted to eliminate from our state."

Six states have their districts drawn by bipartisan panels or independent commissions, and Ohio has a proposal on its 2015 ballot to create an independent redistricting commission. In Arizona and California, a primary goal of the independent commissions is to create more competitive districts. More from our story on the issue here. 

Sen. Bill Galvano ready to gamble on a vote over Florida House redistricting map

In what may be seen as a Hail Mary pass to see if they can get enough votes to send the courts a Senate redistricting map that has the Legislature’s stamp, the Florida Senate leadership agreed to put the controversial House map up for a vote after exhausting all other options.

The decision was made after the two redistricting chairmen, Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jose Oliva, met in a rare two-person conference committee Thursday afternoon. They had spent the morning reviewing the House map, as well as six new options for revising three Hispanic districts in Miami Dade that believed would draw opposition from Miami's three Hispanic senators. Then, with no discussion, they rejected the options and agreed to support the House plan. 

The Senate then scheduled a 4 p.m. vote on the map, as a full-court press for votes continued behind the scenes.

Senate President Andy Gardiner walked the halls, individually meeting with senators to persuade them to vote for the House bill and avoid another embarrassing meltdown that he told members could lead to the court drawing a second redistricting map. 

"They don't have the votes,'' predicted Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. "They were caught between a rock and hard place. They needed to alter the map for political purposes and in order to get 21 votes and if they did that then the map becomes unconstitutional."

Continue reading "Sen. Bill Galvano ready to gamble on a vote over Florida House redistricting map " »

November 04, 2015

Short of votes in Senate, Bill Galvano and Jose Oliva agree to try to revise Miami districts again

Redistricting conferenceMiami-Dade's Hispanic districts remained the focal point of the high stakes conflict between the House and Senate over the redrawing of the state Senate boundaries Wednesday as it became apparent that Senate leaders did not have the votes to pass a House map that significantly revised the configuration of the South Florida districts.

The full Senate met for 30 minutes to take up the House's redistricting map, S9079 and, rather than taking up a vote on the compromise plan, they agreed to a rare two-person conference committee to work out their differences.  

Two hours later, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, met for 10 minutes in the Senate's cavernous conference room, filled with two dozen curious House and Senate members, deeply concerned about what any new map could mean to their political future. 

With little debate, Galvano and Oliva agreed to have staff make changes to only the Miami portion of the House map, picking up a configuration previously offered in a draft map known as S9080 and S9074. 

Continue reading "Short of votes in Senate, Bill Galvano and Jose Oliva agree to try to revise Miami districts again" »

November 03, 2015

House quickly advances its redistricting map as eight Republicans defect on vote

Oliva mapFlorida legislators made quick progress on redrawing the Senate map Tuesday, voting out a Florida House proposal after just an hour of debate, but the measure appeared headed for trouble as lawmakers edged closer to the self-imposed Friday deadline for the special session with no agreement in sight.

Eight Republicans joined with 39 House Democrats to reject the House map, S9079, as 73 Republicans supported it. The map, proposed by House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, attempts to follow the anti-gerrymandering guidelines of the Florida Constitution and includes three Miami-based Hispanic-majority seats, and four black majority-minority districts.

"It feels like we’re stuck in a Groundhog Day movie,’’ said Rep. Lori Berman, D-West Palm Beach. "Once again our chamber and the Senate have two different maps."

The full Senate is expected to reject the House plan, then call for a conference committee to work out differences before the end of the week. Lawmakers called themselves into a three-week special session -- the second redistrictign session this year -- to revise the Senate map after a lawsuit brought by a coalition of voter groups prompted them to conclude that the plan they enacted in 2012 violates the Florida Constitution.

The proposed House plan has drawn criticism from Republicans and Democrats in the Senate for targeting certain Republican incumbents, and for weakening the Hispanic vote in Miami Dade County.

Continue reading "House quickly advances its redistricting map as eight Republicans defect on vote " »

Game changer? Challengers' Senate maps could mean Senate parity

Following the same formula they used last week, the challengers to Florida's redistricting maps offered up two plans on the eve of the first floor vote late Monday, lobbing a giant jump ball to the Republican controlled House. 

If they are offered as amendments today, as expected, they could result in some interesting discussion.

Compared to the maps voted out by the Senate or the House redistricting committee's party line vote, the two maps offered by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida claim to be an improvement on the scales legislators openly talk about: the compactness of districts, the geographic territories split, the Convex Hull scores, the voting age population and the strength of minority voting access districts and majority minority districts.

But on the elements legislators pay attention to but won't acknowledge -- the partisan composition -- the maps could create Senate parity. 

If the court were to adopt CP-2, for example, the Senate could lean 20-20. If it were to adopt CP-3, it could favor Democrats 21-19, based on the 2012 presidential election data.

In South Florida, much stays the same as what was proposed by the House map -- which was patterned off the challengers' map. It merges Sens. Gwen Margolis, D-Coconut Grove, into the district with Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. It puts Sen. Anitere Flores, D-Miami, into a black majority-minority seat now held by Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay and it causes a bit of disruption for the Democrats of Palm Beach County, merging Sens. Joe Abruzzo, Jeff Clemens and Maria Sachs into the same districts. 

But both maps also create a fourth Hispanic seat in South Florida, one that leans Democratic.

A major change is that in CP-2, it doesn't cross Tampa Bay, creating a Hillsborough-only seat that could elect an African American, abandoning efforts to string black communities together in both south Tampa and South Pinellas. By contrast, CP-3 does not offer that option, but retains the South Florida configuration.

The Florida Supreme Court will ultimately have the final say. (Update: we previously had inaccurate information that it would face a facial review and go to the high court before it gets to Judge Reynolds.) 

As Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, noted in committee on Monday, the Legislature now shoulders the burden of proof to show that its map meets the constitutional guidelines under the consent agreement with the challengers, as signed by the Senate and agreed to by the House.

"The consent stipulation says that any map we pass is not going to be given any deference,'' he said. "I think, believe it or not, we've already abdicated some of our responsibility to the court."

He argued the Legislature should accept the map by the plaintiffs. "How will they be able to argue against a map that they drew?,'' he asked. Better yet, if the court were to find the plaintiffs' map unconstitutional "we'd be: 'welcome to the club.'"

Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, noted: "A majority is never held by one party for all eternity,'' he said. "So it is a great challenge that we confront this and future legislatures."

After the vote, he said the House's map should remain free of questions about intent, and there is no way to discern the plaintiffs' intent, just as it is difficult to determine the Legislature's. 

"How can you see intent? Intent is the eye of the beholder," he said. 


November 02, 2015

More late-night maps: challengers submit two new Senate plans

There was another round of map making intrigue in the Legislature Monday as the redistricting challengers offered up two alternatives  maps on the eve of the House's floor debate — this time proposing a fourth Hispanic seat in South Florida and an African American district contained solely in Hillsborough County.

The coalition of voter groups led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida “is concerned that the Legislature's proposals continue to reflect constitutional infirmities and evidently fail to take into account ongoing developments in minority voting in certain communities,” wrote David King, lead attorney for the groups that have challenged the Legislature’s redistricting maps.

He urged lawmakers to update its redistricting data, start over, and consider the plaintiffs’ maps.

The two proposals, CP-2 and CP-3, provide two alternatives to the minority majority seats before both the House and Senate. One creates a Hillsborough-only African American minority seat that doesn't cross Tampa Bay. The other creates a fourth Hispanic seat in South Florida. 

King said that Rep. Jose Oliva's plan, S9079, "while better than [Senate] Plan 9124, retains features that appear intended to create a more favorable map for Republicans at the expense of equality of population, compactness, and respect for geographic and political boundaries.

"Moreover, the Coalition believes the Legislature may violate the Florida Constitution if the Legislature neglects to create a fourth majority-minority Hispanic district in South Florida, in light of the evident ability to draw such a district."

The Florida House put its mark on the Senate redistricting map Monday, approving a new plan that merges pieces of the Senate plan and that of the challengers with its own additions in a way that slightly improves prospects for Democrats.

Continue reading "More late-night maps: challengers submit two new Senate plans" »

Saint Leo poll: Legislature mishandled redistricting, supports solar, and guns on campus

A majority of Florida voters say that the Florida Legislature "handled redistricting very poorly,'' according to a new statewide poll by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

While 64 percent surveyed expressed displeasure with the way state lawmakers have handled the once-a-decade redrawing of political boundaries., nearly 69 percent of the likely voters said they were unhappy with lawmakers. The legislature is on its third special session on redistricting since first enacting the plans in 2012 and, during that time,it has spent $11 million in taxpayer money defending its efforts.

The poll of 521 Floridians conducted Oct. 17-22, 2015, also asked people who should be responsible for redistricting in the future. The most popular answers were:

  • 28.7 percent -- an independent commission appointed by Democrats and Republicans.
  • 28.7 percent -- were unsure. 
  • 14.3 percent -- keep it with the Florida Legislature.
  • 13.9 percent -- an commission appointed by the governor.
  • 7.1 percent -- Florida judiciary and staff.

The survey also found that 50 percent of the public supports support allowing faculty, staff, and administrators to carry guns on the campuses of state colleges and universities; 78 percent support allowing people with solar panels be allowed to sell it back to the grid and 45 percent support fracking for natural gas in Florida, compared to 37 percent who disagree.

More here


Florida- Agree


Florida –Disagree

Florida Likely Voters – Agree

Florida Likely Voters –Disagree

The Florida Legislature has handled recent redistricting very poorly                               





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Questions raised about House's intentions for changes in Senate map; Jack Latvala sees revenge

As House members convene to discuss proposed changes to a Senate redistricting map this afternoon, questions are emerging about what was the intent behind the changes.

In the House's proposed Duval County-based African American minority access district, for example, the black voter registration is dropped below any level previously proposed in a base map drawn by House and Senate staff.

"I can't wait to hear the explanation,'' said Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat who now holds the seat. "It's comical and certainly unnecessary,'' she said. 

Her current district includes a black voting age population of 43 percent and the proposed Senate map, and similar proposal by the redistricting challengers, lowered that to 42.7 percent but under the map proposed by House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, the percentage drops to 41 percent. 

"I’m not sure what the overall strategy is there,'' Gibson told the Herald/Times. "Is his intention to have two Republicans represent Duval in the way he has it drawn? But every time you chip away you chip away at the ability of minorities to elect a candidate of your choice."

Continue reading "Questions raised about House's intentions for changes in Senate map; Jack Latvala sees revenge" »

Redistricting redux: Oliva map, Dem gains and so much more to come

Oliva mapIt's the first day of the third week of the three-week redistricting session today and the House Select Committee on Redistricting is set to meet from noon to four to decide how to bless the House version of a compromise map for the Florida Senate. 

The committee has been silent for two weeks as it awaited the Senate to finish its work and send over its proposal. That ended bitterly last week as a divided Senate voted 22-18 to pass the map, which included a Miami-Dade redraw that did two things: made the Miami-based Hispanic majority seats more logically aligned but also helped to assure that incumbents Sens. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Anitere Flores didn't face each other. 

When its comes to 22-18, that's the number of Republican to Democratic districts in the map being proposed by House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, which is likely to get the thumbs up today in committee. That gives Democrats technically four more seats over the 26-14 divide today but, remember, Dems haven't always done that well in capturing seats in purple districts. No telling if this passes, that will change.

Meanwhile, there is no early end in sight. The House will be at this through Wednesday, when it is scheduled to vote out the map. The Senate will then take it up on Thursday and Friday. The trial court will hear arguments on Dec. 10, so don't expect the Florida Supreme Court to rule on the final Senate districts until sometime in January. 

Continue reading "Redistricting redux: Oliva map, Dem gains and so much more to come" »

October 30, 2015

Jose Oliva rejects Senate's Miami plan, draws a map that favors Republicans 22-18

Screen shot 2015-10-30 at 3.10.52 PMHouse Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva quietly rejected a plan to revamp Miami's three Hispanic districts as proposed by the Florida Senate on a 22-18 vote on Wednesday. 

A draft map, S9079, that Oliva said merged the best of the Senate plan, with some of the modifications offered by the redistricting challengers, was filed Friday in preparation for the House Redistricting Committee meeting on Monday. 

The proposal restores the configuration of the Miami districts to an arrangement close to one originally drawn by House and Senate staff in what was labeled base map S9078, and it roundly rejects the changes offered by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables, in an effort to keep Little Havana whole. 

Oliva told the Herald/Times that Diaz de la Portilla's change, however, "makes me uneasy" as he wanted to avoid court criticism for violating the Fair District's law's ban on drawing districts to favor or disfavor incumbents. In addition to strengthening the Republican performance of the Miami districts, Diaz de la Portilla's changes also removed the possibility that he would be paired with Sens. Anitere Flores, D-Miami, and Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay and it allowed for Littla Havana, the home of his brother, Alex, to remain whole in his district. 

Continue reading "Jose Oliva rejects Senate's Miami plan, draws a map that favors Republicans 22-18" »