The Florida House, operating through a protest led by Black Caucus members, pushed through approval of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to redraw Florida’s congressional districts on Thursday.
After abandoning the chamber for a little more than an hour, Speaker Chris Sprowls and his fellow Republicans returned and called the vote on the DeSantis map, which eliminates Black “access” seats in North and Central Florida, cutting Black Democratic representation in half.
The vote was 68-38. The Senate had already approved the plan, which likely will govern this year’s midterm elections, although a lawsuit pending in federal court in Tallahassee asks three judges to design new districts.
In quick order, the leadership used the same tactic to approve two bills targeting The Walt Disney Co., which spoke out against the “Parental Rights in Education Act,” also known as the “Don’t Say Gay,” law that DeSantis signed earlier this spring.
That law restricts classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools — in grades K-3 but also in higher grades in some circumstances.
The Legislature sent all three bills to DeSantis’ office later that afternoon, his office announced.
Throughout the rushed votes, Reps. Travaris McCurdy of Orange County, Angie Nixon of Duval, and Felicia Robinson of Miami-Dade sat on the floor in the well of the chamber, right on top of the House seal woven into the carpet, and chanted slogans. Other Democrats joined in from their seats.
Yvette Hinson, who represents parts of Alachua and Marion counties, stood next to the three.
Having passed the three bills, Sprowls adjourned the House, slamming down his gavel with a resounding whack. Shortly later, the lights in the chamber went out.
The result was a decisive win for DeSantis, who insisted that U.S. Supreme Court rulings disfavoring consideration of race in drawing political districts. If an ugly one. There was no immediate word from the governor’s office.
Sprowls issued a written statement.
“Today a group of representatives decided to hijack the legislative process, violating House Rules and interfering with the rights of their fellow elected colleagues to debate important legislation before the body,” he said.
“We saw a group of Florida House members with microphones at their desk, a statewide audience, and an opportunity to vote on behalf of their constituents, and they instead chose to pretend they had to stage a protest to be heard.
“House Democrats requested and agreed to 75 minutes of debate time on congressional maps, and they used the entire time. They did not request any additional time prior to the group’s disruption.
“After offering multiple opportunities to debate the bills in an orderly way, we carried on and completed our constitutional duty to pass a congressional map. Ultimately, this group tried to drown out the voices of the other elected representatives and the 22 million Floridians they represent.”
Ellen Freidin, CEO of FairDistricts Now, which led the citizens’ initiative behind the amendments, issued a statement of her own.
“Under unthinkable pressure from the governor, the Legislature has passed what is probably the most intentionally partisan and racist congressional map in the history of Florida. It completely violates the Florida Constitution’s FairDistricts provisions. Apparently these Tallahassee politicians think that if they do not like the rules, they can simply ignore them,” Freiden said.
“This is not the way a democracy should operate. Shame on those who drafted, submitted and voted for the map. We have great trust and hope that the courts will not allow this intentional discrimination to stand and will apply the FairDistricts standards as 63 percent of Floridians intended them to.”
Before the protest broke out, Democrats compared the DeSantis plan to Jim Crow-era laws limiting Black voting rights. Republicans called it a reasonable response to constitutional questions about race’s role in drawing political boundaries.
The new map creates 20 districts likely to vote Republican and eight for Democrats. It splits Blacks in Duval along the St. Johns River into two GOP-leaning districts and eliminates a Black “opportunity” district in Orange County. In opportunity districts a minority group wields enough strength to heavily influence the outcome.
Congresswoman Val Demings represents that area now.
The map provides four Hispanic-leaning districts in South Florida.
The vote was 73-38 on legislation (HB 3-C), sunsetting any special district created before the adoption of the Florida Constitution of 1968 effective on June 1, 2023, unless the Legislature has reauthorized them since then.
That bill’s targets include the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which the Legislature approved in 1967 to give The Walt Disney Co. control over the 25,000 acres it owns in Central Florida. That bill cleared the Senate on Wednesday.
HB 5-C, repealing an exemption for Disney connected to last year’s law cracking down on social media over their alleged deplatforming of conservatives, passed on a 70-38 vote.
DeSantis added the Disney bills to the special session on Tuesday, the very day it opened.
“Here’s what I can tell you: In the state of Florida, we are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten,” DeSantis told cheering supporters in March.
“And I can tell you this: The chance that I am going to back down from my commitment to parents’ rights simply because of fraudulent media narratives or pressure from woke corporations — the chance of that are zero.”
–Michael Moline, Florida Phoenix
This what happens when you vote for Repubs. Hopefully the Dems and Fla. really see DeSantis and the Repubs fir who they are. Perhaps the Dems will finally wake up and vote in unheard of numbers.
Totally Agree. We must send a clear and resounding message in all upcoming local, state and federal elections we do not want these autocratic fascists in power. They are a real threat to our Democracy.
Vote Blue in 2022.
DeathSantis rides again, discrimination at its best. Next if he has his way he will sign into law no people of colored are allowed to vote and he will be bringing back slavery in the State of Florida. Now with what he did with Disney the people of Orlando will be paying higher taxes, does he care of course not. He is not for the people of this state he is only out to become Governor again and then President.
The Dictator that he is coming out loud and clear. Just remember all this when you cast your votes.
Has Renner or Hutson done anything for Palm Coast? Or do they just be puppies for DUH-Santis and roll over as he commands? They are diffidently not worthy of being in the Legislature. Vote smart people.
A few years back, Floridians passed the “Fair Districting Amendment” what ever happened? Voice of the PEOPLE? What a BS.
larry krasner says
New York State Democrats just did the exact same redistricting thing to take advantage of their majority over that state’s Republicans. It’s a political game they play every 10 years after census reporting, nothing more than that
Tony Mack says
You failed to tell the complete story– That redistricting plan was thrown out by the courts — something that will not happen in Florida where Republicans control the courts…When Democrats do it, they’re vilified as “arrogant” When Republicans do it, they’re admired for protecting the voteers!
ALBANY, N.Y. — A lower court judge has thrown out New York’s new congressional and state legislative district lines, ordering lawmakers to create a new plan within weeks and issuing a decision that would inevitably lead to a delay in New York’s June primaries if the ruling is upheld on appeal.
The Republicans’ lawsuit was brought in deep-red Steuben County, and there has been an expectation that the GOP would fare well at the lower level before the real battles occurred in appeals courts.
“The people won, and the politicians lost,” said former Rep. John Faso, who has helped organize Republican efforts on this year’s redistricting.
But Democrats and at least one legal expert were unperturbed by the decision, which had been widely expected.
“It wasn’t surprising,” said Jeff Wice, a senior fellow at New York Law School’s Census and Redistricting Institute who has previously predicted that Republicans’ chances at a final victory are unlikely. “There was a reason that the plaintiffs went to Steuben County State Supreme Court, and to that extent, they got what they wanted. Whether they succeed at the next level is unclear and less likely.”
The 18-page decision from Supreme Court Justice Patrick McAllister, issued hours after oral arguments wrapped up on Thursday, orders legislators to draw new lines with bipartisan support by April 11.
That would cause a major hiccup to the state’s primary process — petitions to get on the ballot are due next week.
Democrats are likely to immediately apply for a stay. Since the case involves a question of whether the state Legislature violated the state constitution, the case could go directly to the Court of Appeals, the state’s top court. Every member of that body was nominated by Democratic Govs. Andrew Cuomo or Kathy Hochul.
“This is one step in the process,” said Senate Democratic spokesperson Mike Murphy. “We always knew this case would be decided by appellate courts. We are appealing this decision and expect this decision will be stayed.”
Faso, for his part, is optimistic about the next steps. Republicans have derided the maps as being drawn by the Democratic-controlled Legislature to benefit Democrats in House and state legislative races.
“They very arrogantly ignored the will of the people and the constitutional prohibitions against gerrymandering and I think they shouldn’t arrogantly assume that the appellate courts are going to agree with them either,” he said.
Much of McAllister’s decision rested on process. A 2012 constitutional amendment that created a new “Independent Redistricting Commission” said that that the commission should vote on proposed maps twice before lawmakers were able to draw their own lines. But the commissioners were not able to come to an agreement on a second vote, meaning that step of the process was circumvented.
The new maps that he wants submitted to his courthouse will need to have “a reasonable degree of bipartisan support,” he said.
How much money does Disney bring to Florida? Could another way have been found for Desantis to show his displeasure with Disney that wouldn’t potentially cost us millions of dollars annually?