The Phoenix Flyer

Chairman blasts ‘political rhetoric’ about FL House panel’s congressional district ‘workshop maps’

By: - December 2, 2021 6:18 pm

This is one of two “workshop maps” released this week by staff of the FL House subcommittee on congressional redistricting. Credit: FloridaRedistricting.gov

Florida’s redistricting efforts in the Legislature have become heated, at least in the state House.

Without naming names, Florida Rep. Tyler Sirois, chairing the House subcommittee on congressional redistricting, complained Thursday about “political rhetoric that’s being caustically tossed around in the media” since subcommittee staff released its first two draft maps on Monday.

“As you may have guessed, once our maps were released, a self-anointed, partisan political class jumped to the headlines to give their commentary as soon as possible, without even reserving the opportunity for explanation or to observe this committee meeting today,” Sirois said in opening remarks when the subcommittee convened Thursday afternoon. He is a Republican whose district includes part of Brevard County.

One such critic was Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz, who issued a press statement Wednesday calling the two draft maps gerrymandered to unfairly boost the Republican Party’s hold on Florida.

News organizations as diverse as POLITICO and Breitbart reported this week that the subcommittee’s draft maps propose new districts in central Florida that would make re-election a long shot for Democratic U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy.

Also in the fray is Republican state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, who is running for Congress. He crowed on social media that “a new congressional map has been released from the Florida House” that could make his campaign easier to win.

“The old District 7 (which I’m filed for) is almost entirely District 6 now. Stay tuned! #winning,” Sabatini Tweeted Monday, not clarifying that there actually are two draft maps on the House side and that neither had been reviewed at that time by the House panel on congressional redistricting.

Sirois complained that the “caustically tossed” rhetoric is off the mark because the congressional draft maps drawn by staff and released Monday are only “a starting point” — not introduced as legislation or proposed committee bills or anything other than “workshop maps” to illustrate to members how their policy choices will drive the drawing of the districts when legislators convene during regular session on Jan. 11.

Subcommittee staffers said they drafted the two maps to illustrate how districts legally can be drawn in various ways depending on which of several federal requirements lawmakers decide to prioritize.

Staff director Leda Kelly said, for example, that districts in both workshop maps split 20 of Florida’s 67 counties, but one map splits 33 cities while the other map splits 40. Both create “protected districts” keeping Black and Hispanic voters together in numbers sufficient to elect candidates of their choice — but in different ways.

Democrats on the subcommittee did not critique the workshop maps but expressed frustration that they were released just three days before the panel’s final meeting before regular session begins, and that there is no announced game plan on how to proceed. Materials used in Thursday’s meeting were provided to members just before the meeting began.

Six members — three Republicans and three Democrats — were excused from the meeting.

In the Senate, staff of the subcommittee on congressional reapportionment released draft maps for the 28 districts that caused little public stir among subcommittee members or observers.

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]

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