A divide over how to shape Tampa Bay's congressional districts is creating uncertainty over whether the Legislature will be able to finish its job in a court-ordered special session on time.
While a legislative impasse is hardly new in the recent political dynamics of the House and the Senate, the latest breakdown is complicated by the fact that they are under a Florida Supreme Court order to draw new districts because the last two attempts failed to produce a constitutionally sound map.
What happens if they don't hit their noon Friday deadline to pass identical redistricting maps? Even legislative leaders are uncertain about the next step.
"I don't know the actual legal procedures from that point, but I'm sure I'll be briefed on that at some point knowing that we are where we are today," House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said moments after the House rejected a Senate plan that would have put all of eastern Hillsborough County — about 520,000 people — into one congressional district, instead of being split into three as they are now.
Instead, the House forwarded a new proposal that is nearly identical to the base map both chambers started with two weeks ago, but with a few "nip and tucks," as Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, called them. More specifically, Oliva, who is leading the House redistricting committee, authored the new plan that puts all of Sunrise, a city of about 90,000 people in Broward County, into one congressional district, rather than being split three ways as it is now. Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County also would be kept whole instead of being split in two congressional districts.
But Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the House's objections to keeping eastern Hillsborough together in one county "does not make sense." He said the Senate is trying to minimize how much Hillsborough is cut up, which complies with the Supreme Court's directives.
"I can tell you that the Senate is not prepared to back away from these changes," Galvano told Oliva in a face-to-face meeting after the House rejected the Senate plan.