The special legislative session to hammer out Florida’s congressional redistricting is only five days away, and many state lawmakers are suiting up to get down to business when they return to the Capitol for the third session this year.
Florida’s congressional redistricting has been wrought with controversy, but state lawmakers will have to work together to put the pieces back together, mapping out fairer districts statewide. Legislators can be pretty certain the map changes will have heavy implications for the political landscape of Florida for years to come.
Here’s who to watch during the 12-day special session beginning Monday:
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton
Sen. Galvano will lead the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting when lawmakers return to Tallahassee next week. Galvano seems to be the Senate’s go-to guy for big responsibilities lately.
The Brandon Republican was also quick to say the Senate didn’t concede it violated Florida law, but split hairs, instead insisting the court would find out the Senate had violated a voter-approved amendment against gerrymandering.
Galvano is already slated to be Senate president in 2018-2020 and is no stranger to shouldering Senate responsibilities. Earlier this summer, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, named Galvano chair of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Chalk up his spot as head of this committee as another position solidifying his power in the Legislature.
Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah
On the House side of the redistricting process is Rep. Jose Oliva. Hand-picked by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, Oliva will take charge of the House Select Committee on Redistricting.
Like Galvano with the Senate presidency, the Miami-Dade Republican is slated to become House Speaker from 2018-2020.
The Florida Democratic Party is salivating at the prospect of new congressional maps. They potentially represent a pretty sweet political pickup for the party. The maps mean new opportunities for some Democrats.
Of course, the entire special session merely adds fuel to the FDP’s fire against Republicans. Although the party has been mostly mum on the issue, FDP Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on redistricting made it “crystal clear” that Republicans were “guilty of unconstitutionally subverting Florida’s democracy.”
League of Women Voters
The League of Women Voters of Florida wasn't the only plaintiff in the high-profile case -- Common Cause was an active participant as well. The League was particulary vocal in alleging the Florida Senate violated the 2010 voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendments, which strictly prohibited state lawmakers from drawing districts to favor specific political parties or incumbents.
The special session is a direct result of the LWV’s suit. The League, like Common Cause, made it clear they were not going to let any funny business occur on their redistricting process watch. Earlier this month, the plaintiffs in the redistricting case sent a letter to President Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli demanding the congressional base maps be redrawn in public, not behind closed doors.
“That map will play a central role in the legislative process of drawing the congressional redistricting plan,” wrote League President Pamela Goodman and Peter Butzin, chairman of Common Cause Florida. “We hope and expect that the Legislature will provide a mechanism for the public to view the drawing of the ‘base map’ and any associated discussions.”
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown
Corrine Brown has been perhaps the strongest voice in the opposition of the redistricting process. She joined in a federal lawsuit Thursday, alleging the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was being violated.
Brown called the redistricting ruling “seriously flawed” and explained she worried African-Americans wouldn’t be able to vote for the candidate of their choice.
“We're not going out. We're not going back. We've come too far, too long,” said Brown Thursday. “You talk about black lives matter? What matters is, you have somebody that represents you at the table."
Florida’s former governor and perpetual candidate Charlie Crist will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on the redistricting process because it’s likely to mean the reshaping of a district which would be fairly winnable for Crist.
Crist is calculated, though -- he’s been tight-lipped on whether he will run for sure (though it would be surprising if he decided against it). He has already said he would run if the redistricting went his way, so don’t be surprised if Crist makes a quick announcement once the new congressional maps are finalized and stamped with a seal of approval.
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.