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.

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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

Statement

Florida- Agree

 

Florida –Disagree

Florida Likely Voters – Agree

Florida Likely Voters –Disagree

The Florida Legislature has handled recent redistricting very poorly                               

64.0%

12.1%

68.7%

11.2%

Numerical base =

521

521

409

409

 

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."

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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. 

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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. 

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October 28, 2015

Jack Latvala and others react to the Don Gaetz rebuke

Reaction was tempered but swift to former Senate President Don Gaetz’s rare and personal 17-minute rebuke against fellow Sen. Jack Latvala on Wednesday.

“It seems now Sen. Gaetz is trying to deflect some of the blame for this whole fiasco,’’ Latvala told the Herald/Times.. “I’ve got a reward for anyone that can find any mention of my name in the Supreme Court opinion of having any secret meetings. It ain’t there. His is.”

Gaetz, R-Niceville, who was redistricting chairman when the invalidated 2012 maps were approved, rose for a rare “point of personal privilege,’’ a rule that prevails over all others, and used it to criticize Latvala for blaming the need for the special session to redo the maps on him.

“Sen. Latvala says Don Gaetz is the cause for the special session. You decide. I am am sorry for my mistakes. Sen. Latvala should be sorry for his,’’ he said. “…But when a bully throws a sucker punch, you hit back and never give in.”

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Jose Oliva on Senate map: 'I've got a real concern' about incumbency issues

The chair of the House redistricting committee said Wednesday that while the narrowly-approved Senate redistricting map has some acceptable features, he is “very uneasy” about the apparent incumbency protection elements.

Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes said he feared the changes the Senate made to the staff-drawn map could led the court to conclude the map violates what is considered “tier one” standard that prohibits lawmakers from intentionally protecting incumbents or political parties.

“Numerically, it is in fact a more compact map,’’ Oliva said in an interview with the Herald/Times on Wednesday. “The concern of course is all that has been said regarding the tier one – who has spoken to whom – and I’ve got a real concern about all of that.”

The amended map has the effect of protecting the re-election chances of the amendment sponsor, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and of Sen. Anitere Flores, also of Miami. Both had been drawn into the same Miami-Dade district in the original Senate map — along with Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay.

Diaz de la Portilla’s change now gives Flores and Diaz de la Portilla separate districts and increases the ability of his brother, Alex Diaz de la Portilla to replace him.  Miguel, the elder brother, lives in Coral Gables while Alex lives in Little Havana. Both are in the same district under his proposed map.

Oliva said he was also encouraged by the map submitted late Tuesday by the challengers in the redistricting lawsuit, a coalition of voters groups led by the League of Women Voters. It was not considered by the Senate and Senate Reapportionment Committee chairman Bill Galvano said he expects it will be part of the debate with the House.

“I thought their map was helpful and, unfortunately the Senate didn’t have that to act up,’’ Oliva said. “It is something we will look at. It’s still early, but it looks like some parts of that map could create improvements.”

His greatest concern about the plaintiff’s map is the reduction of black voters in an African American-based seat in Broward County, District 31.

Oliva said the House will review the two proposals and prepare alternatives by the Friday deadline. The House Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday.

“Now, I’ve got what the Senate passed and what the plaintiffs sent and, hopefully, we can put something together that is a legislatively-approved map,’’ he said. “The goal here is to pass a constitutionally-compliant, legislatively-approved map.”

Conflicts erupt as Florida Senate passes map 22-18

via @MaryEllenKlas

The personal and political conflicts that have divided Florida Senate Republicans for months reached the boiling point on Wednesday as the Senate narrowly approved a redrawn redistricting map 22-18 and two powerful senators pointedly used the opportunity to finger each other for the chamber’s mistakes.

Democrats voted together in opposition to the map, which they said would be struck down by the court as unconstitutional violation of the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution. They were joined by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and three other Republicans.

Following the debate, however, angry emotions spilled into view as Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who was redistricting chairman when the invalidated 2012 maps were approved, rose for a rare “point of personal privilege," a rule that supercedes all others, and used it to criticize Latvala for blaming Gaetz for the Legislature having to redo the Senate map.

“Sen. Latvala says Don Gaetz is the cause for the special session. You decide. I am am sorry for my mistakes. Sen. Latvala should be sorry for his,’’ he said, reading from prepared remarks. “I take no satisfaction from this exchange. I did not seek it. But when a bully throws a sucker punch, you hit back and never give in.”

Over the last two months, Latvala has been harshly critical of Senate leadership because of the court’s rejection of the map drawn during the 2012 term, pointing out a Herald/Times report that the taxpayer cost of the redistricting litigation has risen to $11 million and suggesting the blame should be placed on Gaetz.

In arguing against the map on Wednesday, he did not mention Gaetz by name but said, “there’s a lot of doubt whether we here in this Senate have handled this issue in a way that we can be proud of.”

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