House poised to clash with Senate over new map

Tonya Alanez | Sun Sentinel | 11/03/2015

As lawmakers head into their third and final week of a special session, the House appears to be on a collision course with the Senate over new political boundaries for the state's 40 Senate districts.

Rather than give its blessing to a map approved last week by the Senate, a House committee on Monday favored a version that would merge three South Florida Democrats into the same district and would ensure that two Hispanic Miami-Dade senators would not have to run against each other.

The House Select Committee on Redistricting voted 9-4 to approve a map offered by its chair, Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes. The four dissenters were Democrats.

In what seems like déjà vu, the two chambers failed in an August special session to redrawing 27 congressional districts.

Oliva downplayed the possibility of another House and Senate clash.

"We feel what we have done is that we have taken everyone's concerns, put them together in a more numerically superior map in the hopes of being able to pass it," he said.

The full House on Tuesday will vote on its map and send it to the Senate for a vote Thursday. If the Senate doesn't pass the House map, negotiators for both chambers will try to resolve the differences. But time is tight; the special session ends Friday.

The Senate map would preserve the districts of all three Hispanic Republican senators in Miami-Dade County: Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Rene Garcia and Anitere Flores.

The House map would redraw Portilla's district to absorb a portion of the area now held by Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Coconut Grove. And Flores' district would get redrawn to claim a portion of Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard's mostly African-American district.

Oliva's map also would also merge three Palm Beach County Democrats – Senators Jeff Clemens, of Lake Worth, Joseph Abruzzo, of Wellington, and Maria Sachs, of Delray Beach – into one district.

And that, in turn, has the effect of making an African-American district in Broward – District 35 – just under 50 percent non-Hispanic black. That seat is currently held by term limited Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

To avoid legal challenges, the House committee opted to keep that district above 50 percent by splitting three Broward cities, Tamarac, Deerfield Beach and Davie.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, criticized the "shenanigans" that have surfaced during the redistricting attempts.

"We all know why we're here. This is because of the Senate," he said. "Every map that has been drawn by the Legislature …is a map that probably isn't going to fly in court."

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