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Senator proposes big changes to Tampa Bay area congressional districts


Hillsborough County would be able to elect two members from the county to Congress under a major reconfiguration of the state’s Congressional districts proposed by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

Lee said the county has been well represented over the years, but said there are enough people in eastern Hillsborough County that have like interests that they deserve to be in the same Congressional district represented by someone from the county. As it is now, Hillsborough County is split into four congressional districts, yet only one member is from Hillsborough: Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. Other parts of Hillsborough have congressmen living in Polk County, Pinellas and even Okeechobee.

Lee said he’s done with parts of Hillsborough being sliced and diced to help balance out populations in Congressional districts in other parts of the state.

“I just feel like it’s somebody else’s turn,” Lee said.

Under the plan he proposed this morning, the 15th Congressional District, now represented by Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, would become an almost completely Hillsborough County district that would cover Plant City, Brandon, Riverview and Sun City Center. It would also include a portion of Polk County.

Lee’s plan would push Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, out of Hillsborough County. Rooney’s 17th District includes Sun City Center and other southern sections of the county.

Lee’s plan would also reassemble Sarasota County into one congressional district, as State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, proposed earlier. Sarasota is already wholly in the 16th Congressional District, covered by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. But the Legislature’s first base redistricting map recommended splitting the county into two different districts. Detert objected saying it would water down the county’s voice in Washington.

Lee’s proposal is just one of a half dozen amendments that the Florida Senate is drilling down into today and, likely, on Friday as they prepare to redraw all of the state’s 27 Congressional Districts to comply with a Florida Supreme Court order. The court ruled the Legislature violated the state constitution when it drew the present congressional maps.

Despite all of the proposed changes, Lee said he's not sure if any of the amendments have much of a chance of being adopted. He said to change the map, it has ripple effects in other communities that may not go over so well. He said in his amendment, Polk and Osceola counties would have to be changed.

"I'm not sure we will have support for anything but the base map," Lee said.