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Jose Oliva on Senate map: 'I've got a real concern' about incumbency issues

The chair of the House redistricting committee said Wednesday that while the narrowly-approved Senate redistricting map has some acceptable features, he is “very uneasy” about the apparent incumbency protection elements.

Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes said he feared the changes the Senate made to the staff-drawn map could led the court to conclude the map violates what is considered “tier one” standard that prohibits lawmakers from intentionally protecting incumbents or political parties.

“Numerically, it is in fact a more compact map,’’ Oliva said in an interview with the Herald/Times on Wednesday. “The concern of course is all that has been said regarding the tier one – who has spoken to whom – and I’ve got a real concern about all of that.”

The amended map has the effect of protecting the re-election chances of the amendment sponsor, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and 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.

Oliva said he was also encouraged by the map submitted late Tuesday by the challengers in the redistricting lawsuit, a coalition of voters groups led by the League of Women Voters. It was not considered by the Senate and Senate Reapportionment Committee chairman Bill Galvano said he expects it will be part of the debate with the House.

“I thought their map was helpful and, unfortunately the Senate didn’t have that to act up,’’ Oliva said. “It is something we will look at. It’s still early, but it looks like some parts of that map could create improvements.”

His greatest concern about the plaintiff’s map is the reduction of black voters in an African American-based seat in Broward County, District 31.

Oliva said the House will review the two proposals and prepare alternatives by the Friday deadline. The House Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday.

“Now, I’ve got what the Senate passed and what the plaintiffs sent and, hopefully, we can put something together that is a legislatively-approved map,’’ he said. “The goal here is to pass a constitutionally-compliant, legislatively-approved map.”