The Florida Legislature’s second special session of the year collapsed in failure after the House and Senate failed to agree on a congressional map as they’d been directed to do by the Florida Supreme Court.
It could all have been simple. The lawmakers could simply have done what their lawyers advised them to, and ratified the “base map” that staffers had drawn up before they all got together for their grumpy fortnight in Tallahassee. But each chamber voted for some minor modifications. And then the two chambers couldn’t agree to the others’ tweaks.
There was no budging. At noon Friday, the two chambers declared themselves adjourned, apparently to let the courts finish the job of deciding where to set the boundaries for Florida’s 27 congressional districts.
And so the Legislature of 2015 has proven itself incapable of governing on the big issues — Medicaid expansion, the budget and redistricting.
Back in January, when the regular session started, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, made a big deal of telling reporters how much in sync they were.
“The president and I are certainly good friends,” Crisafulli said, emphasizing that they both come from the same Space Coast part of the state, and promised, “We’re going to be working very closely together.”
The buddy-buddy act is long over.
To the Republicans running the House, the word “compromise” has become anathema. Rather than seeing politics as the means of achieving reasonable ends, they show themselves willing to shut the process down if they cannot get their way, all the while patting themselves on the back for standing on principle.
Recall the regular session ended bitterly as the two chambers adjourned three days early rather than address Medicaid expansion, leaving so much business unfinished that the Legislature had to return for a special session in June to even pass a budget.
To call these “shut it down” tactics “just politics” would be too generous. These are tactics of kindergartners, and we’ve seen them before: at the national level from Tea-Party Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The antagonisms are between two Republican-led chambers. But both chambers also directed their acrimony toward the Florida Supreme Court, which had sparked the session by finding that eight of the 27 congressional districts drawn up in 2012 violated the state constitution’s Fair Districts clauses.
As late as Friday, reapportionment chairman Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, complained that legislators had to record conversations with staff members — a decision by the Senate aimed at proving their process was transparent and free of political considerations, as the court required.
But neither Galvano nor any of the other Senate or House leaders took responsibility for the expensive and embarrassing mess they have created by subverting the will of the people, who said with a 63 percent vote in 2010 that congressional and legislative districts should no longer be created to gain a political edge.
Twice courts have found that legislators huddled secretly with GOP consultants to create an illegal congressional map that would favor Republicans, both for state Senate districts and for congressional districts.
It was bad enough that the Legislature violated the constitution in drawing up congressional districts. With this latest fiasco, they’ve shown they are incapable of gathering themselves together and correcting their errors.
If this quarrel over congressional districts seemed like chaos, just wait until the lawmakers reconvene to debate Senate districts.
One thing is clear. Every move they make, they reinforce the argument for taking this whole process out of their hands. It’s time to turn redistricting over to an independent, nonpartisan commission.