Florida House passes redistricting map

Dan Sweeney | Sun Sentinel | 08/19/2015

Amid blistering attacks on the Florida Supreme Court and the state Senate, the Florida House passed a congressional redistricting map Tuesday.

The new map affects all of Florida's 27 congressional districts to some extent, though some districts will be less recognizable than others.

In South Florida, districts 21 and 22 previously ran parallel to each other vertically along the eastern side of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Now, the districts will be stacked one on top of the other, with one in Palm Beach County and one in Broward County and southeast Palm Beach County.

The House map differs from one the state Senate is poised to pass Wednesday, which significantly alters district boundaries in Central Florida, especially the three congressional districts that cover eastern Hillsborough County, northern Polk County, and eastern Lake County.

The 120-member House approved its map by a 76 to 35 vote, with nine legislators not present. Known as the "base map," it was created by legislative staffers to comply with the court ruling that eight of Florida's 27 congressional districts had been drawn to favor the Republican Party.

A pair of state constitution amendments passed in 2010 banned legislators from drawing districts with the intent to favor any political party or incumbents.

State Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, said the court's order that new congressional districts be drawn was one "many observers say [is] one of the worst cases of judicial activism or judicial law to ever come out of that august body."

And State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola Beach, repeated his demand that the legislature subpoena the justices and their papers to see whether they had any ill intent.

The Democratic minority was vocal in pointing out it was the legislature several years ago, not the recent court decision, that had violated the state constitution.

"The truth is that if we had the kind of rules that were set by the leadership of this chamber the last time we took up this map ... we wouldn't be here today," said state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek. "The outrage expressed by some in this room I find quite laughable actually."

State Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, saved her ire for the political operatives the Supreme Court found had corrupted the process. She said the blame should be placed on "those who have truly bastardized this process for their own profit."

It seemed every representative had something harsh to say about someone. But in the end, they passed the map and are awaiting word from the Senate. The chairman of the House's redistricting committee, state Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, said he had not yet considered the Senate's alternative.

"I'm not against a change," Oliva said. "The change just has to be an improvement to the current map."

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