Manatee congressional districts uncertain; Galvano says redistricting may be court decision

KATE IRBY | Bradenton Herald | 08/21/2015

Within hours after the Florida Legislature adjourned its special session Friday without agreeing on a Congressional map, state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said a court will likely have to draw the map in September.

Galvano, chairman of the Senate redistricting committee, said the court could either take up differing maps approved by the House and Senate, or draw new lines for the 27 districts as it sees fit.

Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties lie at the heart of the disagreement between the two chambers.

Though District 16, which currently includes most of Manatee County and all of Sarasota, was not one of the districts called unconstitutional in an earlier Supreme Court ruling, neighboring districts in the Tampa Bay area were.

The House map, which was kept the same from a base

map drawn by staff members of the House and the Senate, addresses the other district issues by changing District 16 to include all of Manatee, the northern half of Sarasota and the southern third of Hillsborough. The Senate version keeps District 16 exactly the same as it is now.

"There was no identified issue with Congressional District 16," Galvano said. "So it made no sense to modify our district and make another change."

In a tense joint meeting between Galvano and state Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, the House redistricting chairman, Oliva brought up that there could be issues about unconstitutional intent, since the change was brought up by state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who represents Sarasota.

"The reason I think these amendments are flawed, and that I think they will cause problems with this Legislature and Legislatures to come, is proving a negative is impossible," Oliva said.

After Oliva refused to talk about unconstitutional intent issues, saying he didn't want to assume negative things about senators' characters, Galvano led a walkout from the joint meeting after requesting a conference committee. The House refused.

"Without identifying those concerns, we're shooting at a dart board in the dark," Galvano said. "It wasn't being productive."

Galvano said the Senate made changes on the base map in a transparent manner and that it was important to take input from elected representatives so it wasn't solely a map created by staff.

"We're not going to not do an amendment just because a senator is from a certain region," he said.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, who currently represents the 16th Congressional District, has voiced support for the Senate plan and keeping his district unchanged.

"It's important to follow the constitutional mandate that existing geographic and political boundaries should be used to form congressional districts," said Buchanan's spokesman, Joe Sangiorgio. "The Senate map leaves Sarasota County intact and therefore accomplishes that goal in a way the original plan did not."

The Senate voted to extend the special session until the Aug. 25 deadline, but the House overwhelmingly refused the extension in two separate, nearly unanimous votes.

Gov. Rick Scott could reconvene the Legislature before the court-imposed Aug. 25 deadline to redraw the districts, but that wouldn't guarantee a resolution.

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