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Fight over Florida congressional map fueled by Senate

power struggle
Sen. Tom Lee, one of the Senates most powerful Republicans, took the stand Friday in the ongoing
trial over how to configure Floridas 27 congressional districts and said that he did not draw a
district to benefit himself and he had no intention of running for Congress.
It was a rare, personal moment in the unprecedented process that has reshaped how redistricting
works in Florida.
But, while the testimony was designed by the Senate to undercut attacks by the Republican-led
House that the Senate map was drawn to benefit incumbent Republicans, it also exposed how the
congressional trial is really just a practice run.
Leaders in the House and Senate have concluded that the outcome of the trial will have a direct
impact on the drawing of something more personal than congressional districts the Senate map
because how the case is resolved could decide how much input legislators will have in shaping that
plan.
A lot of this is about precedent as we proceed with developing the Senate maps, said Lee, RBrandon, after testifying on the second day of hearings. There are a lot of strategic decisions that
will come back based on how the court treats the maps.
The House is arguing that its map, drawn primarily by staff in a sequestered room with input from
only GOP lawyers, is the more constitutional process because it shielded legislators from any
improper partisan intent.
The Senate argues that the staff-drawn base map is the starting point and legislators should not be
penalized for changing maps even if they inadvertently benefit themselves as long as there was not
improper intent.
Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis has until Oct. 17 to recommend a proposal to the Florida Supreme
Court for the states final congressional map. The hearings resume Monday.
After the Florida Supreme Court invalidated the congressional redistricting map in July, Senate
leaders conceded that the Senate map they enacted in 2012 violated the Fair Districts provisions of
the Florida Constitution. After Lewis makes his recommendation, lawmakers will be back in
Tallahassee for a three-week special session starting Oct. 19 to redraw the Senate map.
The House and Senate announced Friday they had reached agreement on how to proceed with the
special session, including recording all conversations and having staff build five or six base maps.
But they must still wrestle with appeasing the needs of lawmakers with a personal stake in the
outcome.
Eight House members have opened campaigns to run for one of the 40 Senate seats on the ballot in
2016, and another 10 are rumored to be considering it depending on how the districts are drawn.
In Broward County, for example, Rep. Gwen Clark-Reed has filed for Senate District 31, as has
former Rep. Perry Thurston, to replace Democrat Chris Smith. In St. Petersburg, Reps. Betty Reed

and Darryl Rouson have filed for Senate District 19 to replace Democrat Sen. Arthenia Joyner. And
in Miami, Rep. Erik Fresen has filed to replace Republican Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla.
A handful of senators are worried about being pitted against each other in newly drawn districts
such as Sens. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. And others are fearful
of losing large chunks from districts that the won easily.
Complicating the issue is the House leaderships interest in using the redistricting process to emerge
as an influential player in dictating the direction of the Senate map allowing them to potentially
influence who gets elected to the upper chamber and, ultimately, who is elected Senate president.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Latvala are locked in a fight over who will become Senate president
after the 2016 elections. Negron says he has pledges from 14 Republicans, a majority in the Senate,
while Latvala refuses to concede and argues that with the upended election cycle the final vote
should not occur until after Election Day.
Meawhile, Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land OLakes Republican who has been designated to be
House speaker in 2016, and his closest allies privately prefer to work with Negron.
The allegation that the Senate map was drawn for personal, partisan benefit, is at the unspoken core
of the public feud between the House and Senate over congressional redistricting.
You have very different interpretations with regards to the process and rationale, said Rep. Jose
Oliva, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee. The Senate seems to believe they have
greater latitude, and the House has taken a more strict approach.
Lee testified that he prepared an amendment to keep Hillsborough County whole because it had
been a donor county for years to several congressional districts.
The reconfiguration of Hillsborough, which gutted the congressional district now held by U.S. Rep.
Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, prompted Oliva and House leaders to reject the Senate map and dissolve
the special session in August without resolution.
The issue emerged in court Friday as Senate lawyer Raoul Cantero attempted to show that Lees
motives were pure. He asked Lee if he drew the Hillsborough configuration to benefit himself.
No, sir, Lee replied.
How the court decides will not only dictate how the Senate maps are drawn, it will decide how the
Fair Districts amendments are applied in the future, Lee said.
I realize everyones seeing ghosts because of what weve been through over the last few years in this
reapportionment process, Lee told reporters. But I think its very important that we establish the
individual legislators right to impact these maps.
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