August 28, 2015

Galvano redistricting prediction: The court is going to give us some time

Bill GalvanoAs the afternoon fades on this Friday in August, the Florida Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling as to how it wants to proceed in the redistricting impasse over the congressional maps.

Senate Redistricting chief Bill Galvano told the Herald/Times he believes the court is prepared to give the Legislature more time to work out differences between the House and Senate, if they can soon agree to reconvene in special session. 

"The door is still open to talk and reconvene, although that hasn’t been agreed to,'' said Galvano, R-Bradenton, in an interview. "There was a misunderstanding that the court was going to order or issue a statement today. The Supreme Court operates on its own time schedule. We still have until Oct. 17."

Meanwhile, Senate President Andy Gardiner on Friday formally requested a meeting with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to discuss convening another special session to discuss the alternate map offered by Galvano.  Download 8 27 15 Speaker Crisafulli

Nearly a week after the last legislative session ended in stalemate, Galvano offered up a "compromise" map on Thursday that attempts to appease many of the concerns the House had with the final Senate map. On Friday, House Redistricting chairman Jose Oliva responded in a letter to House members that the Senate map had promise -- but also warned that it may be too late.

"If the Senate had offered an amendment like the map filed by Chairman Galvano yesterday afternoon, that map would have been given serious consideration,'' Oliva wrote.

Continue reading "Galvano redistricting prediction: The court is going to give us some time" »

Jose Oliva: New Senate congressional map proposal is too late


At this time last Friday, House and Senate negotiations over new congressional district maps were falling apart, as the chambers approached a noon deadline without a compromise.

Now, House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, says he likes the latest map proposed by Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Thursday.

But it's too late.

"If the Senate had offered an amendment like the map filed by Chairman Galvano yesterday afternoon," Oliva wrote in a memo to House members, "that map would have been given serious consideration."

At issue has been the configuration of a district in southern and eastern Hillsborough County, which the Senate pushed for but House members wouldn't agree to, saying it didn't use "consistent" methodology to draw boundaries and could be thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Galvano's latest map addresses other concerns of the Senate (including putting all of Sarasota County within one district) but doesn't create a southern Hillsborough seat.

Still, Oliva says the best path forward is to continue supporting a map that passed the House. That map made minor tweaks to a "base map" drawn by House and Senate staff before the redistricting special session began.

August 25, 2015

Lewis asks Supreme Court for redistricting direction; Galvano sees hope for new session

The Florida Supreme Court will now decide the best way to resolve the impasse over Florida's redistricting maps, after a trial judge said Tuesday he "has no authority" to resolve the dispute between the House and Senate.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis held a six-minute hearing in his Tallahassee courtroom and told lawyers that the Supreme Court "didn't give me a lot of discretion" when it ordered him to review a map passed by lawmakers in special session.

Lewis said he will report to the high court that lawmakers ended the session in gridlock on Friday and will "ask them what they want me to do."

He will tell the court that, "unfortunately, we're in a process that even though the Senate believes it can get something done, the House says I don’t think we can." 

The Senate filed a motion Monday asking the Florida Supreme Court to relinquish jurisdiction of the case to allow Lewis to conduct a hearing to decide whether the proposed Senate map or the House map was better.

Continue reading "Lewis asks Supreme Court for redistricting direction; Galvano sees hope for new session" »

August 24, 2015

Lewis orders redistricting scheduling conference but questions loom

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Monday ordered a scheduling conference for Tuesday after 3 p.m. to receive updates on the status of the congressional redistricting plan that lawmakers failed to complete last week. But the question of the day is: what options does he have?

Lawmakers assumed they were handing over the job of redrawing the districts to the court when they adjourned their two-week special session Friday without finalizing a congressional map. But lawyers for the plaintiffs that brought the legal challenge -- the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a coalition of Democratic voters -- say they are not sure it will be Lewis who will be drawing the maps. 

"The court relinquished the case to the trial court for 100 days to review the Legislature's map and only review the map,'' said Mark Herron, a lawyer for the voters coalition that challenged the congressional redistricting maps. With lawmakers failing to produce a final map, "we're in outside territory now."

Will Lewis order lawmakers to return to complete a map or will he conclude they have irreconcilable differences and mediate the situation himself? If he does decide to mediate and accept alternative maps, will the House and Senate be allowed to offer different options or will they be required to work in tandem? 

Here's what the court said in its order:

Continue reading "Lewis orders redistricting scheduling conference but questions loom " »

August 23, 2015

Move to let courts redraw districts 'déjà vu all over again'

Crisafulli end of redistrictingAs Florida legislators dissolved their two-week redistricting session Friday without agreement on a congressional map, they acknowledged they were ready to repeat something they had done only once before in state history — turning over the complicated task of drawing maps to the courts.

The year was 1992, when Bill Clinton and Ross Perot dominated national politics, Florida voters imposed term limits on politicians and Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County.

Then, as now, one party controlled government. Lawton Chiles was governor and the House and Senate were run by Democrats. And yet then, as now, political dominance was not enough to overcome the pressures of personal ambition and intra-party divides.

The 1992 redistricting session ended in stalemate over a congressional map and legislators turned the job over to a three-judge panel of federal judges. The court’s signature change was the creation of a sprawling, wishbone-shaped minority-majority seat that linked black communities in 14 counties from Jacksonville to Orlando and back through Gainesville.

The argument: the federal Voting Rights Act protections required the state to link minority communities together where possible to create districts where black and Hispanic voters could elect candidates of their choice.

Now that sprawling district is at the heart of the redistricting ruling from the Florida Supreme Court that ordered the Legislature to redraw its congressional map and specifically end the practice of dividing counties through the center of the state in order to create a black-majority district.

This time, judges specifically ordered that the district run east-west along the northern counties of the state and, because the legislature couldn’t get the job done, the task will go to Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis. He has until Oct. 17 to get a plan complete and send it to the Florida Supreme Court for final review. The first hearing will be Tuesday.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Miguel DeGrandy, a Miami attorney and former Republican state representative who successfully aligned with black Democrats in 1992 to challenge the congressional and legislative districts drawn by the Democrat-controlled legislature.

More here.

August 21, 2015

Crisafulli: No malice to Senate but their map is 'flawed'

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent the following message to House members, expressing disappointment for the collapse of the session and reinforcing his opposition to the Senate map:


Thank you, once again, for coming to Tallahassee to give your best effort to produce a compliant remedial Congressional map. I am deeply disappointed that we could not reach an agreement with the Florida Senate.

Though we failed to pass a map agreed to by both Chambers, I am confident that the bipartisan map we passed out of the House – a map that was produced with input from both the House and the Senate (HB 1B) - was a map that gave the Legislature the best chance to complete the remedial process successfully.

It is without malice toward the Florida Senate that I say I believe their map was flawed.  As Chair Oliva stated perfectly, the Legislature is not the judge of intent. Unfortunately, when the Legislature uses inconsistent methodology or principles that afford benefits to some regions to the detriment of others, we open ourselves up to the exact type of criticism and adverse decisions that we have received in the past from the Florida Supreme Court.

Plainly stated, the final version of HB 1B that we returned to the Senate was the best map before the Legislature on both Tier 1 and Tier 2 standards. The Senate never questioned the constitutional validity of the House Bill.

This Special Session was not about pushing limits but about how well we could fulfill our duty, and thus preserve the Legislature’s constitutional authority over redistricting. I am extremely proud of the manner by which the House conducted itself during Special Session, and I again wish to commend Chair Oliva for his outstanding service.

Over the next few days, I will be consulting with our House Counsel to determine our best course of action. Your votes in committee and on the House floor will be at the forefront of my mind as I make these decisions.

I apologize for the uncertainty that we are faced with and commit to providing you with more information in a timely manner.

Once again, thank you for working so hard to fulfill your responsibilities. The last chapter has not yet been written. 

August 19, 2015

Democrats in the Florida House ask to take redistricting out of Legislature entirely


The day after House members from both parties expressed disdain over redistricting before passing new congressional maps, Democrats redoubled their call to take the process out of the Legislature’s hands entirely.

Speaking Wednesday morning, leaders in the minority party said the current system used to divvy up population among congressional and state legislative representatives is “rotten to the core” and “needs to be blown up.”

“Today, it’s crooked as a bucket of snakes,” Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said. “There are way too many blind spots in the process.”

The solution? Democrats say it’s an independent redistricting commission. Experts say these have worked well in other states, as the Herald/Times has previously reported.

Democrats anticipate two bills in the upcoming legislative session to create an independent commission. One, by Dania Beach Rep. Evan Jenne, hasn't been heard in the special redistricting session that ends this Friday in Tallahassee.

Continue reading "Democrats in the Florida House ask to take redistricting out of Legislature entirely" »

August 18, 2015

Florida House OKs congressional maps, sends to Senate



The Florida House on Tuesday approved new, Supreme Court-mandated maps of the state’s 27 congressional districts, solidifying a rift with the Senate.

The map adopts district lines drawn by House and Senate staff based on the court’s instructions to correct what it called unconstitutional partisan intent that would help Republicans gain control of more seats in Congress.

Redrawn maps passed the chamber 76-35, with most House Democrats and a few Republicans voting against it.

Consistently, House leaders have said they don’t want to change the maps but feel the Supreme Court has tied their hands. Many Republicans who spoke up during debate said they don’t support the map but feel they must address the court’s constitutionality concerns.

“There is a map, which I believe gives us the best chance to pass constitutional muster and at least for us to do our job and our duty,” said Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, “regardless of whether we feel the Supreme Court did theirs.”

In the last two weeks, House members have rejected proposals to change the map, which would have put all of Sarasota County in one congressional district, rather than splitting it in the middle, and aligned districts in Palm Beach and Broward counties to run from north to south along the coast.

Continue reading "Florida House OKs congressional maps, sends to Senate" »

August 17, 2015

Florida House rejects changes to congressional map, prepares for final vote


The Florida House on Monday rejected amendments to proposed congressional district maps, all but guaranteeing it will pass the “base map” the chamber started considering last week.

The likely new configuration of the state’s 27 congressional districts was made in response to the state Supreme Court invalidating  the current map, saying it was drawn with partisan intent. But while the Senate has spent time considering changes, the House is now poised for a Tuesday floor vote on the map drawn by House and Senate staff.

Only one of the amendments shot down Tuesday was actually voted on by the full House, failing, on a voice vote. It would have redrawn U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s district to include all of Sarasota County and the eastern part of Manatee County. The base map splits Sarasota County in the middle along an east-west line.

The proposed change is identical to one by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, which is being considered in the Senate on Monday as well.

“There’s a great concern of a disparate treatment in legislation, in budgeting and in representation between south Sarasota County and north Sarasota County,” said state Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, who introduced the amendment. “It is not a partisan concern. It is simply a concern about fair and adequate representation.”

The other amendment, by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, would have reverted to an older congressional map already invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2012. Hill withdrew the amendment before a vote. It was ruled outside the parameters of the special session, and did not receive a floor vote, an echo its downfall in the House Select Committee on Redistricting last week.

August 15, 2015

Can Florida draw an unbiased political map? Contrast and compare

Congressional districtsAs Florida legislators struggled last week to draw a congressional district map that meets a court mandate, it became clear that what they would end up with would be far from perfect.

“Bring me a redistricting commission or something, for goodness sakes,” exclaimed Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, as lawmakers convened for the second special session to revise a congressional redistricting plan that had been rejected by the court. “Bring me something that works!”

Redistricting reformers thought they had found a better way when they persuaded 63 percent of Florida’s voters in 2010 to approve the “Fair District” amendments to the Florida Constitution that outlawed gerrymandering and banned lawmakers from intentionally drawing districts that favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties.

But taking politics out of the most political of acts turned out not to be so easy.

Now, lawmakers are in the midst of a second special session to redraw the congressional map for the third time.

So, up against this political angst, what does it take to create a politically unbiased map?

More here.