Senators try to salvage congressional redistricting plan

Jeremy Wallace | Tampa Bay Times | 08/24/2015

The Florida Legislature’s special session on redistricting ended in failure, but that is not stopping a pair of senators from taking one more shot at redrawing the state’s 27 Congressional districts.

Florida Sens Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, andNancy Detert, R-Venice, late Friday filed a new redistricting plan, even though there is no clear mechanism to take up or vote on the plan. The Legislature’s special session ended on Friday when the House and Senate could not agree to a plan to redraw the state’s Congressional districts.

But Detert and Bradley are hoping their new offer could serve as a compromise that could win support if the Legislature does end up back in session to deal with the unfinished business.

“We haven’t given up,” Detert said.

Detert said their plan takes part of the House’s final offer and combines it with her original idea to put all of Sarasota County whole in one congressional district without making any dramatic changes to Hillsborough County as the Senate previously was demanding.

Gone from Detert’s proposal was an idea pushed by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, that would have put all of eastern Hillsborough into the 15th Congressional District, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland. Lee’s proposal was opposed by the Florida House last week.

But under Detert’s plan, all of southern Hillsborough – south of the Alafia River — would remain in the 17th District, which is now held mostly by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee.

The Detert plan would also absorb the House’s idea of keeping all of the city of Sunrise in Broward County and Riveria Beach in Palm Beach County together in the 20th Congressional district, now held by U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar.

The Legislature is out of session and cannot bring up the Detert-Bradley proposal before a court hearing on the issue of redistricting happens on Tuesday in Tallahassee.

Detert is not on the Senate redistricting committee and was working with Bradley, who is on the committee, to make changes to the plan to fix what she saw happening to Sarasota County. Sarasota was not in one of the 8 congressional districts the Florida Supreme Court ruled in July violated the state constitution, yet the House and Senate map drawers split the county in two and put it in separate congressional districts.

The proposed plan by Bradley and Detert was technically been filed as a new bill that would be taken up in 2016. It already has growing support with Republicans in the Senate. State Sens Joe Negron, Kelli Stargel, Jeff Brandes, Travis Hutson, Aaron Bean, Lizbeth Benacquisto, and Thad Altmanhave all signed on to be co-sponsors of the compromise bill.

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