Senate passes its own congressional district map

Dan Sweeney | Sun Sentinel | 08/20/2015

The two chambers of the Florida Legislature are headed for a conference after the Senate approved an amended congressional map that differed from the House version passed Tuesday.

Like the House map, the Senate map changes the current landscape of South Florida by stacking one congressional district on top of the other in Broward and Palm Beach counties and by keeping the City of Homestead in one district rather than splitting it in two.

But the Senate made a few significant changes in Central Florida over the map passed by the House. The 40-member Senate voted in favor of the map 28-8. Four senators, all from South Florida, were not present.

The House version was created in response to a Florida Supreme Court finding that the current maps unconstitutionally were drawn to favor the Republican Party.

Among the changes, the Senate map:

Keeps Sarasota County whole, while the House map splits the county in two.

Keeps all of eastern Hillsborough County in one district instead of splitting it as the House map does.

Places part of Lake County into the Orlando-area CD 10, while the House has part of Lake County in CD 15, which stretches down into Hillsborough County.

Two South Florida senators attempted to amend the map to make changes in their area. Neither succeeded.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, tried to keep congressional districts 21 and 22 running parallel to each other along eastern Broward and Palm Beach counties. But Republicans argued it lowered to 48 percent the black voting age population of nearby District 20, a minority district subject to the Voting Rights Act.

State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, had unsuccessfully proposed making whole a black community in South Miami-Dade County that would be split up under the new redistricting map.

The chairs of the Senate and House redistricting committees, Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, met briefly Wednesday after the Senate vote.

Despite the acrimony of the previous days, Oliva seemed open and even optimistic about the Senate's changes.

"There are many factors we have to comply with," Oliva said. "Many things we have to balance in reaching what we hope is a better map. But I think if you look at this process, I think what you're seeing here is that a better map is possibly being crafted."

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