Three takeaways from the special session

Tampa Bay Times | Tampa Bay Times | 08/13/2015

No meetings are scheduled for today as legislators race to beat a 6 p.m. deadline to propose changes to the base redistricting map that could get its first votes on Thursday.

A Congressional plea: U.S. Rep. Dan Webstermade clear he isn’t giving up his seat in Congress without a fight. Webster, R-Orlando, in Tallahassee on Tuesday, blasted the proposed base redistricting map because it would make it nearly impossible for him to win re-election because of how many registered Democrats would be added back into his district. “The new configuration for District 10 makes the seat uncompetitive for anyone in my party, including me,” Webster said.

Explaining the splits: For nearly 8 hours, state lawmakers peppered the legislative staff that drew the base maps to explain why they split counties like Sarasota, Leon and Hillsborough counties in pieces when theoretically they could have been kept more together.

Responding to Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, staffers said keeping Hillsborough contained in two Congressional districts was possible, but it would have had regional implications that would have made other districts less compact.

For Sarasota County, which would be split into two different districts, staffers said that decision helped improve the compactness of the neighboring 17th Congressional District, now represented by Rep.Tom Rooney, an Okeechobee County Republican.

No Amendments: It became clear on Tuesday that even the harshest critics of the proposed base map are going to struggle to change it. That’s because members have been told that if they want to change how counties they are from are handled, they must assure every district in Florida remains in compliance with the state constitution and each has an exactly equal population. In addition lawmakers cannot do anything that unintentionally damages the chances of minority candidates from winning office. “Putting all those factors together is going to make it difficult,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who has been trying to stop the Legislature from splitting Tallahassee into two separate districts. “I’m optimistic, but I’m less optimistic than I was.”

Times/Herald staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

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