The chairman of the House redistricting committee Friday filed a new Senate map that would recast districts in South Florida, opening up a potential conflict with the Senate a week before a special legislative session on the lines is set to end.
Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said in a memo to House members that his proposal for the 40 state Senate districts was inspired in part by a plan floated by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida. Those voting-rights organizations have helped lead a legal fight against congressional and Senate maps drawn by the Legislature in 2012, saying that the plans violated the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments approved by voters two years earlier.
The ongoing special session comes after the Legislature settled a lawsuit dealing with the Senate map. The settlement, which was reached in the wake of legal defeats on the congressional plan, requires redrawing Senate districts.
In his memo, Oliva noted that the plan offered by the voting-rights organization came just hours before the Senate approved its version of the lines on a nearly party-line vote this week.
“Due to the late submission, the Senate did not have sufficient time to consider their map,” Oliva wrote. “In contrast, we have had a few days to review the plaintiffs’ map. After a thorough review and with careful consideration, I directed the House redistricting staff to prepare an amendment that incorporated concepts found in the plaintiffs’ map that I believe improved the base map.”
Oliva’s proposal tweaks lines in several of the state’s metro areas and would divide Okaloosa County between two Panhandle districts vertically rather than horizontally. But the most controversial changes might be to undo the composition of a handful of South Florida districts that helped clear the way for the Senate’s 22-18 vote Wednesday in favor of the proposal.
That plan was controversial because of an amendment that shifted the home of Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, out of a proposed district shared with Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami. Diaz de la Portilla, who backed the amendment, said the change was necessary to ensure that Miami-Dade County continued to have three districts where Latinos would have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
Oliva’s map would not place Diaz de la Portilla in the same district as Flores and Bullard, but it could pair the Republican with Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami, according to an address listed on her personal financial disclosure.
The House Select Committee on Redistricting, which Oliva chairs, is scheduled to meet Monday to consider Senate lines. The issue likely will go to the full House on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Senate moved its next scheduled meeting from Thursday to Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, confirmed Friday that the change that was made because of the timeframe for appointing a potential House-Senate negotiating committee to hammer out differences between plans. The Senate would have to vote one more time before that committee could be named.
The House and Senate failed to reach agreement during an earlier special session about how to fix problems with the state’s congressional districts. That led to Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis recommending a map proposed by the voting-rights organizations to the Florida Supreme Court.
The justices are set to hear oral arguments on that map Nov. 10.
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida