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Three takeways from Florida special session


No meetings are scheduled today, which is day five of the special session on redistricting. Instead, state senators are reviewing a series of amendments made Thursday to a base map that are scheduled to be voted on Monday.

First Vote: The first votes of the special session came from the Florida House redistricting committee. By a 9-4 votes, House members voted to send a base map drawn by legislative staff to the full House for a vote next week.

Brown’s big stand: U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, made an impassioned plea to the Legislature to reject the Florida Supreme Court’s directive to change her 5th Congressional District. Brown said by drawing her district as the Florida Supreme Court has directed, African-American communities will have their voting power diminished. Sure, the district is oddly shaped, but Brown said it strings together black voters from Jacksonville to Orlando to assure they can elect who they want to represent them in Congress. “We have these areas in Florida that have not been taken care of,” Brown told senators. “That’s what the 1965 Voting Rights Act is all about -- putting these communities together so they would have a voice.” The Legislature is considering a base map that would turn Brown’s district into an east-west configuration, running from downtown Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

No more Swiss cheese: 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. He said there are enough people in eastern Hillsborough County that have like interests and 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 the county has historically been carved up like “Swiss cheese” 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. His plan would put all of eastern Hillsborough County into the 15th Congressional District, now represented by Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. His amendment was discussed during a committee hearing on Thursday, but won’t be voted on until Monday at the earliest.