Florida Legislature's Efforts to Draw New Congressional Maps Implodes as Lawmakers Storm Out in Protest

Florida Legislature's Efforts to Draw New Congressional Maps Implodes as Lawmakers Storm Out in Protest
Photo: Michael Rivera | Wikicommons

For the second time this year, the Florida Legislature has decided to give up on the tasks it was elected to do because its members couldn't come to a consensus. 

After the state Supreme Court ruled that the federal congressional district maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2012 were unconstitutional, both the House and Senate were called back to Tallahassee to redraw new maps in time for the 2016 elections. However, the House and Senate ultimately ended up with different maps. At issue were the borders of five districts in Central Florida.

Instead of hashing it out, senators earlier today stormed out of a meeting with members of the House. Less than an hour later, the Senate passed a resolution to continue the session. Moments later, the House rejected that plan by a 99-3 vote, effectively ending the special session. 

It's likely now that the courts will instead draw the congressional maps. 

The House had approved base maps that were drawn up by legislative staffers without influence from lawmakers or lobbyists before the session began. The Senate, however, wanted to make some changes.

The Palm Beach Post reports that Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, in particular, wanted to keep the eastern portions of Hillsborough County divided into three congressional districts instead of lumping them into one. This, however, would have meant splitting Sarasota County into two districts and spilling portions of District 10, which in the House plan was completely within Orange County, into Lake County. 

“Up until now, these meetings were held in a very courteous fashion, and what you see here probably should concern all of you and certainly anybody out in the public about the functions of their government,” Rep. Jose Oliva told the Post about his Senate counterpart's storming out of the meeting. 

The tension echoes that between the House and Senate at the end of the regular session over whether to extend Medicare. It was the House, however, that decided to end the session early before coming to an agreement, which forced the Legislature back for its first special session of the year. 

As for the districts, a lower court is expected to review the plans on September 25 before heading for final approval by the state Supreme Court. Without a plan, it's likely now that those courts will have to draw those plans themselves. 

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