FL Senate stiffs DeSantis on congressional reapportionment, sets vote on new maps

By: - January 19, 2022 7:09 pm

Senate reapportionment chairman Ray Rodrigues answers questions about new congressional and state Senate maps on Jan. 19, 2022. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

The Florida Senate ignored Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday in finalizing its proposed redistricting plan for congressional and state Senate districts to account for the results of the 2020 U.S. Census.

All that’s left now is for a final vote on those maps, likely on Thursday. The state House is developing its maps for its own members and Congress independently.

The governor had submitted his own reapportionment map over the weekend, citing “legal concerns” with the Senate version of the congressional map. The move was practically unheard of, according to published reports. The administration explained that it wanted to express its thinking ahead of any potential veto if DeSantis winds up unhappy with what the Legislature produces.

However, the governor’s version was widely seen as favoring Republicans.

The only changes the Senate okayed during debate on its congressional map was to avoid splitting the predominantly Black city of Miami Gardens between two districts.

Following the debate over the plans, Ray Rodrigues, who represents part of Lee County and is chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, declined to be drawn into a public dispute with the governor.

But he added that the Senate was determined to avoid the protracted litigation that followed reapportionment 10 years ago, when the Florida Supreme Court threw out the plans for Congress and the Senate.

“It is clear from those lawsuits that our responsibility in creating these maps is to ensure is no retrogression” — that is, improper dilution of minority voting strength,” Rodrigues said.

“We are 100 percent confident that there is no retrogression with the map” the Senate will vote on “and we are prepared to defend that map if necessary.”

The Republican-dominated Legislature generally goes along with the DeSantis’ agenda, although it sometimes shaves his proposals at the edges. For example, also on Wednesday, Senate on a separate matter voted the to cut an Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund sought by DeSantis in half — from $1 billion to $500 million.

If the governor needs more money to respond to emergencies, he’ll need to ask the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which comprises House and Senate leadership and is authorized to spend money from state reserves when the Legislature is out of session.

As the Phoenix reported on Wednesday, analyses by Dave’s Redistricting and The Redistrict Network suggest DeSantis’ proposed congressional map favors Republicans in 18 districts and Democrats in 10. Under the existing map, Republicans control 16 seats to the Democrats’ 11.

The Senate draft contains 16 districts that went for Donald Trump two years ago and 12 likely to skew Democratic — a gain of one seat.

The Senate’s map for its own new districts included 23 that lean Republican, 13 leaning Democratic, and four competitive constituencies.

The Fair Districts Coalition, comprising the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Common Cause, All On The Line, Florida Conservation Voters, have complained that the proposed Senate map fails to account for increases in minority populations that should entitle those groups to additional representation. Given minority tendency to favor Democrats, the omission could favor the GOP.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.