BY JAMES L. ROSICA
TALLAHASSEE — Two Tampa Bay-area lawmakers will lead the effort to draw new maps of Florida’s congressional districts later this week.
Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, chairs the House’s select committee on redistricting. He represents inland Pasco County.
Corcoran also is slated to become House speaker after the 2016 elections. He was chief of staff to now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when Rubio was state House speaker 2007-09.
Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, heads the Senate’s reapportionment committee. His legislative district includes parts of seven counties, including southern Hillsborough County.
Lawmakers are returning to the capital after a judge found the current map gerrymandered – that is, favoring one party over another.
But it’s unclear how easily they’ll now draw “little perfect purple squares,” as one state representative put it. The problem is the domino nature of boundary lines: Changing some or even one causes ripple effects in others.
The panels run by Corcoran and Galvano will do the heavy lifting of redrawing the boundaries of Florida’s congressional district map after a Tallahassee judge struck it down last week. Neither lawmaker could be reached Monday.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled against the existing map, finding that two districts wrongly favor Republicans in violation of the state’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment.
One district takes a serpentine path from Orlando to Jacksonville, taking in enough areas to create a majority-minority district, a seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown.
The other, confined to central Florida, is represented by Republican Congressman Dan Webster.
Lewis ordered lawmakers to come up with and agree on a new map by Aug. 15.
Legislative leaders on Monday released a schedule showing that lawmakers will convene in special session at the Capitol at noon Thursday.
The special session is set to finish noon next Friday “or upon final passage of a congressional map,” according to the schedule.
In a memo to lawmakers, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz reiterated their “strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the current election process.”
Changing the map so late in the year puts the timing of this year’s election into question.
“Florida’s supervisors of elections have raised serious concerns over changing the elections process at this late date,” Weatherford and Gaetz wrote.
They then quoted from the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil-rights group, saying that postponing the election will “irreparably harm … voters who face challenges to political participation — be it financial, job scheduling, transportation, or other impediments.”
“In a special election, get-out-the-vote infrastructure simply does not exist,” the memo said.
State Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, said he worries that the power of Florida’s congressional delegation may be diluted. Grant represents eastern Pinellas and northwest Hillsborough.
He explained that some members of Congress from the state will be seated later than those from other states if the election is delayed, he said.
“I’m absolutely interested in districts being drawn in compliance with the law, but I think we already did that,” Grant said.
He added: “Fair Districts doesn’t make it easy because it assumes you can make these little perfect purple squares,” with red representing Republicans and blue Democrats.
“It’s easy to be critical, but how many blue areas can you find in the Panhandle?” he said. “And how many red ones can you find in South Florida?”
On the other hand, state Rep. Dana Young, a Republican who represents South Tampa, says she expects a smooth, successful process.
She’s a member of the House committee.
“I think it’ll all work out,” she said. “I’m an optimist.”
Local legislators on map committees
Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes (chair)
Dana Young, R-Tampa
Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton (chair)
Tom Lee, R-Brandon
Source: Florida Legislature