October 28, 2015

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.”

Continue reading "Conflicts erupt as Florida Senate passes map 22-18" »

October 27, 2015

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla defends map, admits he discussed it with his brother

Miami Republicans As Miami Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla successfully pushed an amendment to the Senate's redistricting map Tuesday, he was faced with the obvious question: does this benefit you -- or your brother.

Diaz de la Portilla is scheduled to be term limited in 2018 but his brother, Alex, is rumored to be interested in returning to the Senate as well.

The amended map has the effect of protecting his re-election chances and those 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. 

But, when challenged by reporters Tuesday, Diaz de la Portilla said the change is defensible. 

The current map "basically disenfranchises Hispanics in Miami-Dade County,'' he said. "This map is an improvement over any of the maps offered." 

Doesn't his change also remove the conflict with Flores? Won't a judge raise questions about that? 

"It has absolutely nothing to do,'' with that, Diaz de la Portilla told reporters. "I think the record is very, very clear and you can go to the recordings of when the maps were drawn -- and they're all there, it's a matter of public record, I encourage you to take a listen. You'll see the key here is we've had three Hispanic seats in Miami Dade County for almost 30 years now."

The map originally proposed by Senate leaders, "merged Doral with Little Havana," packed Hispanics and split Little Havana. He said the so-called functional analysis showed "it did not perform for three Hispanic districts." 

Did you consult or mention these things with your brother?

"Oh, I've mentioned it to my brother, of course. I've mentioned the idea of Miami Dade County preserving three Hispanic majority seats because it's important to my community."

Photo: Miami Sens. Diaz de la Portilla, Flores and Rene Garcia talk on Senate floor during redistricting debate.

Continue reading "Miguel Diaz de la Portilla defends map, admits he discussed it with his brother" »

Challengers blast Miguel Diaz de la Portilla map, submit their own alternative

As another tense chapter in Florida's redistricting drama unfolded Tuesday, the challengers added to the suspense by blasting the proposed Senate map as an incumbency protection vehicle and offering up their own alternative map for the Senate to consider.

In a letter to Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, the coalition of voters groups led by the League of Women Voters said they were “very disheartened to witness” the passage of an amendment Tuesday by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla. They alleged it was a violation of the constitutional ban on incumbency protection, known as a "tier one" standard. 

The amendment “unpairs Senator Diaz de la Portilla — the amendment's sponsor — from facing Senator Flores in District 40 in [map] 9090, and increases the Republican performance of Senator Diaz de la Portilla's new district in 9124 [District 37],'' wrote David King, lead lawyer for the challengers. "These tier-one violations cannot be ignored, particularly when Senators have already criticized the base map selection process as one designed to avoid paring incumbents."

King’s letter included an alternative map drawn by a redistricting expert and Democratic consultant John O'Neill, who drew the map approved by the court in the challenge to the congressional redistricting map. King enumerated the defects in the Legislature's map and requested that lawmakers consider theirs instead.

"As compared with the base maps, the enclosed alternative remedial map, CPS-l.doj ("CPS-l"), offered on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause (the "Coalition") has significantly lower population deviation; better respects political and geographic boundaries, with only 10 split cities (and only 23 aggregate city splits) and 15 split counties; and has superior average compactness, with an average .49 Reock score and average .80 Convex-Hull score,'' King wrote. 

"... In contrast, it appears that the Legislature strategically strung together counties and configured districts in a manner that resulted in significantly higher deviations than necessary. 9090 has many more districts with diminished compactness, deviates more from established boundaries, and creates a more favorable map for Republicans in the process."

Here's King's letter:  Download 2015 10-27 King-Galvano and Oliva re Maps

Continue reading "Challengers blast Miguel Diaz de la Portilla map, submit their own alternative " »

Miami-Dade becomes the go-to fix to bring the needed votes for Senate map

Faced with a close vote on a leadership-backed map to redraw state Senate districts, the Florida Senate agreed to modify three minority-based districts in Miami-Dade County Tuesday, hoping to win the crucial votes needed to send the proposal to the House and win support for the revision in court.

The sponsor of the amendment, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables, argued that change was needed to make the districts more compact, in compliance with the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution, and to preserve the voting strength of Hispanic voters. 

He argued that the original map, which was drawn by House and Senate staff and approved on a party-line vote last week by the Senate Reapportionment Committee, diminished the ability of Hispanics to elect a candidate of their choice.

But the change also had the effect of protecting the re-election chances of Diaz de la Portilla and Sen. Anitere Flores. Both had been drawn into the same sprawling Miami-Dade district -- along with Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay -- in the original map advanced by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the Senate redistricting chairman.

Diaz de la Portilla’s change now gives Flores and Diaz de la Portilla separate districts, increases the ability of his brother, Alex Diaz de la Portilla to replace him, but keeps Bullard’s home on the edge of the district now held by Flores. 

“This is a constitutional map,’’ Diaz de la Portilla told the Senate, before they approved the amendment on a voice vote. “This the right map for Florida and the right map for Miami-Dade County.”

Galvano defended the original districts but supported the modifications after rejecting more than a dozen other amendments offered by Democrats. 

The map immediately drew criticism from the challengers, a coalition of voters groups led by the League of Women Voters who successfully sued the Senate for violating the constitution. In a letter to Galvano and House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, they said they were “very disheartened to witness” the passage of Diaz de la Portilla’s amendment and called it a violation of the incumbency protection provisions, known as tier-one violations. 

Continue reading "Miami-Dade becomes the go-to fix to bring the needed votes for Senate map" »

Supreme Court rejects Rep. Dan Webster's request for 'seat at the table' in redistricting case


U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando, won't be allowed to intervene in the congressional redistricting case that he fears could eliminate his district, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a short response to the request Webster filed last Thursday, the Court rejected Webster's argument that he deserves a "seat at the table." A new congressional map approved by Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis violates the Fair Districts amendments by "disfavoring" an incumbent, Webster argued. That incumbent: himself.

"Equity would require that all interests be heard on this issue, especially that of a sitting United States Congressman about to be radically impacted," the filing by Webster's lawyer James Wilkes says.

State legislators, however, disagreed.

Lawyers for the House and Senate wrote that they didn't think Webster should be allowed to be part of the case "at this late stage." But they had no problem with allowing the former Republican speaker of the Florida House to file a brief on his behalf.

The case is intended to redraw maps that the Supreme Court says violates the state constitution. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 10, after lawmakers finish a special session to redraw state Senate maps in Tallahassee.

Senate Democrats, in rare position of leverage, vow unified vote against GOP map

The Florida Senate Democratic caucus, nearly outnumbered two to one in the 40-member chamber by Republicans, have found themselves in a rare position of strength amid a divided Republican caucus that is now splittered by a bitter feud over the 2016 Senate presidency fight. 

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, said several Democrats had been approached by Republican leaders this week, asking them to vote for the GOP-backed redraw of the Senate map when the measure is up for a final vote on Wednesday. The full Senate today is taking up several amendments to the proposal which was voted out of the Senate Reapportionment Committee on Friday by a 4-3 party line vote.

"I think they have a problem,'' Braynon said. "I know that it's going bad enough that some of our members are asked." 

It is unclear whether the map presented by Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has the votes to pass the Senate, with several Republicans indicating they may not support the map. Two of them, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon and Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said they believe the map fails to address many of the complaints offered up by the challengers who sued the Senate for violating the anti-gerrymandering rules of the Florida Constitution.

Continue reading "Senate Democrats, in rare position of leverage, vow unified vote against GOP map" »

October 26, 2015

Map this: Challengers supply some of the missing 2012 election data to Legislature

Galvano mapThe redistricting challengers threw a wrench into the map-drawing plans of the Florida Legislature late Monday, delivering election data to them that adds new detail to the question of where to draw minority districts -- particularly in South Florida and Tampa Bay -- on the eve of the first state Senate vote on Tuesday.

In a letter to House and Senate redistricting committee chairmen, the lead lawyer for the coalition of voters groups said they had compiled the 2012 and 2014 primary election data for key counties that the state Senate's redistricting staff director told senators "would take months" to compile.

"It only took a few days for the Coalition to gather this data for the foregoing counties,'' wrote David King in a letter to Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano and House Redistricting Committee chairman Jose Oliva. "That included significant time spent determining the methodology that the Legislature had used to compile its MyDistrictBuilder database."

The data is important to providing what is known as a "functional analysis" of the districts, the court-imposed test to determine whether a district can elect a minority candidate. The state's Fair District redistricting laws require that minority voting strength must be maintained when the Legislature reapportions the population and draws political boundaries every 10 years. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that it is not the number of minority voters in a district that matters, but how those voters perform in recent elections.

The new data, which includes primary data from the 2012 and 2014 elections for Hillsborough, Pinellas, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties, could better reflect voter intensity in electing minority candidates in the districts that the GOP-led Legislature packed with minorities in an effort to guarantee the election of African American candidates and Hispanics, King argues. 

""The 2010 data on which the Legislature continues to focus is now five years old. Having now seen the updated data, it is evident that recent changes in voting pattems make a significant difference, especially in areas with fast-changing demographics like South Florida,'' King wrote, noting that "the updated turnout numbers demonstrate an increase of nearly 6.5 percentage points in Hispanic turnout in the Democratic primary between 2010 and 20l2."

Continue reading "Map this: Challengers supply some of the missing 2012 election data to Legislature" »

October 23, 2015

Senate committee advances redistricting map but doubts remain about whether it will pass

Senate redistrict 1023

A bitterly divided Florida Senate committee gave preliminary approval to a redistricting redo pushed by Republican leaders Friday that would split 13 communities in Miami Dade and Broward counties and force all 40 senate districts onto the ballot next year.

The Senate Reapportionment Committee voted 4-3 along party lines to bring a Republican-leaning map offered by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, to the floor next Tuesday but its prospects for passage remained cloudy.

All three Democrats on the committee said they objected to the Galvano map, and two of the committee’s four Republicans warned that they may not support it next week because they fear it could run afoul of the state Constitution’s anti-gerrymandering provisions.

"It is defiant. It is unnecessary. It is recalcitrant and I hope that our colleagues at the other end of the hall will recognize the fatal flaw that was placed on the record by our lawyers,’’ said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. He said the Senate’s lawyers ordered staff to ignore the allegations in the lawsuit that forced lawmakers into special session to fix the Senate map when they drew the map, a decision that could lead the court to reject the plan and become "another black eye" for legislators.

The meeting came at the end of the first week of the three-week special session called to redraw the Senate map. Lawmakers called the session after reaching a settlement in July with the League of Women Voters, Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning plaintiffs who accused them of violating the Fair Districts amendments to the state Constitution.

The map proposed by Galvano, S9090, keeps four minority-majority districts that favor African Americans and three minority-majority districts that favor Hispanics, all in Miami Dade. Although Miami Dade and Broward have some of the largest populations in the state, the map divides more cities in those counties than anywhere else in the state.

And, like the current map that elected 26 Republicans and 14 Democrats, the majority of the districts in the new map favor Republicans --although the map does create three stronger Democrat-leaning districts.

In the 2012 presidential election, for example, Mitt Romney would have won 23 of the districts and Barack Obama 17, according to an analysis by MCI Maps, a Democratic consulting firm.

The challengers claimed the Senate violated the Fair Districts amendments to the Constitution in 2012 by drawing a map that intentionally avoided pitting incumbents against each other, crossed Tampa Bay to strengthen a Republican district in Pinellas, split the African American community in Daytona Beach to benefit adjoining Republican districts, and unnecessarily packed black Democrats into districts across the state to help reserve safe seats for Republicans.

Lee, and Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, complained all week that Senate Republican leaders had not addressed those complaints when drawing the new maps.

“Simply drawing maps in a sterile process and not come out with maps that don’t address the base allegations…to me not only lacks common sense but seems defiant,’’ said Lee, a former Senate president. “It seems unnecessarily dug into this notion that we have some superiority complex.”

Continue reading "Senate committee advances redistricting map but doubts remain about whether it will pass " »

Dan Webster increases heat to keep his seat, files to intervene in court case

Dan WebsterArguing that the "extraordinary" circumstances surrounding the state's congressional redistricting challenge could leave him without a district, U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando, on Friday filed to intervene in the case before the Florida Supreme Court, arguing that violates the constitution.

"The Congressional District of a sitting United States Congressman is being transmuted into a majority minority district in which he stands no chance of re-election, and he has, to date, not been permitted “a seat,'' Webster argues in a motion filed by his attorney Jim WilkesDownload Filed_10-22-2015_Motion_to_Intervene

Webster offers up a new argument: that by significantly revising his district, it violates the provisions of the Fair Districts amendments by "disfavoring" an incumbent. 

Webster tried and failed to make the same argument and intervene in the case before the trial court but Circuit Court Terry Lewis rejected it. His new motion recognizes that allowing someone to intervene in the case at the Supreme Court level is generally not authorized but the circumstances are unique.

He said the court ruled the current district violates the constitution's anti-gerrymandering provisions in its July 9 ruling, but did not offer any directions for how to redraw it. As a result, the newly proposed map "is a radical departure from the history of the district" and it becomes a minority-majority district. 

"The Proposed Remedial Plans are specifically intended to disfavor Congressman Webster as the incumbent in District 10,'' the motion argues.

The court is scheduled to hear arguments on Nov. 10. 

October 21, 2015

Bill Galvano offers a new map and alternative plan for choosing who avoids re-election

Galvano 9084Confusion and controversy continued to swamp the redistricting discussions Wednesday as one Senate Republican leader said he had “lost confidence’’ in the legal team while the redistricting chairman selected a draft map that several lawmakers said could be rejected by the courts as incumbency protection.

"I just don’t find any consistency in this. I think I’ve lost confidence," said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, after listening to answers from the Senate's legal team during the second day of hearings on Senate redistricting.

After the six-hour hearing, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, filed a proposed map, S9084, that will serve as the Senate's starting point on Friday, when the committee attempts to vote out a map. It was similar to S9078, one of six draft maps drawn by House and Senate staff in advance of the redistricting session that began on Monday.

Galvano, who has argued that not all senators will have to run for re-election in 2016 even if their districts are significantly revised by the new map, also offered two options for determining which Senate districts will escape re-election. If approved, at least 14 senators will not run until 2018, even if the new districts have them represent new communities.

He also rejected arguments from Democrats and some Republicans and included in his map a district that links black communities of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties by crossing Tampa Bay, similar to the district now held by Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner.

Continue reading "Bill Galvano offers a new map and alternative plan for choosing who avoids re-election" »