Saturday, March 17, 2012

New proposed Florida Senate map released

The chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee unveiled a new proposal for his chamber's legislative districts Saturday in an effort to answer criticisms from the Florida Supreme Court, which rejected the original plan last week.

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the new maps would meet the rules laid out in the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts Amendments approved by voters in a 2010 referendum.

"The districts were redrawn, along with any affected districts, in accordance with constitutional standards as defined by the Supreme Court," Gaetz wrote in a memo accompanying the release.

The Supreme Court threw out the plan because of problems in eight districts, though Gaetz's plan would also shift other lines to offset population changes in districts struck down by the ruling. All Senate districts are supposed to have relatively equal populations under both the Fair Districts standards and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In Southwest Florida, the new map would create a more compact district for Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples. It would remove part of Cape Coral from his constituency, and add snippets of southwest Immokalee and all of south Lee County, including Bonita Springs. It also would relabel his current District 37 as District 30.

“My district no longer looks like an upside-down alligator,” Richter joked Saturday of the new map, which he had read about but not yet seen.

The 2002 lines, while concentrated in western Collier County, have appendages that extend into Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Golden Gate Estates, and Marco Island, creating a jagged district.

“I’ve stayed out of the discussions, and it was intentional,” Richter said of the redistricting debate. “I believe it’s my duty to represent Southwest Florida. I don’t pay tremendous attention to where a line is drawn.”

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples
“My district no longer looks like an upside-down alligator,” Sen. Garrett Richter joked Saturday of the new map, which he had read about but not yet seen.

The plan announced Saturday wouldn’t change his demographics, he said.

Richter gave the example of Immokalee, which he said he still feels like he represents, although it hasn’t been in his district since he was elected.

The new map would dismantle much of District 27, which runs from Bonita Springs across the state to Palm Beach County. The portion of Lee County currently in that district would either go to Richter — like the southern part — or be integrated into a greatly altered District 23, which now covers the area around North Port.

District 21, now part of Lee County, would no longer exist in Southwest Florida and instead become the new label of a Tampa-area district.

The map would shift the partisan balance of the initial plan slightly, appears to throw at least two incumbents together and unites the city of Lakeland -- something the court had asked but not ordered lawmakers to do. It also compacts two minority-friendly districts thrown out by the Supreme Court, watering down their percentages of black voters, and substantially shifts the lines in Southeast Florida.

Under the plan unveiled by Gaetz on Saturday, 25 of the Senate districts would have been won by Gov. Rick Scott in the 2010 election; Alex Sink, his Democratic opponent, would have carried 15. The original map had a 26-14 edge for Republicans, who currently hold a 28-12 advantage in the upper chamber.

Discarded by the new plan is "an odd-shaped appendage," in the words of the Supreme Court, in one Central Florida district that opponents said was meant to prevent Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican slated to become Senate president in 2014, from facing Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland. The new map appears to draw the two incumbents together, meaning that one of them would have to move in order to avoid a faceoff.

The Panhandle districts of Gaetz and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, were struck down for being drawn horizontally instead of vertically. The new map would align the two districts more vertically, but would keep Gaetz, the Senate president-designate, and Evers from a faceoff by splitting Okaloosa County in half horizontally.

A minority-influence district in Northeast Florida, criticized by the Supreme Court for sprawling across several counties, would instead be contained within Duval County. That district, currently represented by Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, would see its black voting-age population drop from 47.7 percent to 42.9 percent. District 34, a majority-black seat in Southeast Florida, would see it's black voting-age population fall from 55.8 percent to a bare majority of slightly less than 50.1 percent.

And Lakeland would be combined into one district, forcing the Senate to reconfigure a large inland district south of the city and pushing a district that had surrounded Bradenton and then run northeast to Lakeland to instead run more toward the southeast.

Gaetz also said that the numbering system for Florida districts -- thrown out because it would have given many of the chamber's members up to 10 years in office instead of the constitutionally-mandated eight -- would be determined by a pair of public, random drawings.

The Florida Democratic Party, which argued against the maps at the Supreme Court, blasted the new plan.

"The map Sen. Don Gaetz has proposed brings us no closer to complying with the court's ruling and is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by the GOP Senate leadership to stall the implementation of Fair Districts and cling to their gerrymandered power," said Chairman Rod Smith in a statement issued by the party. "Not only have they thwarted the will of 63-percent of Florida voters, they are now thumbing their nose at Florida's Supreme Court."

Gaetz said lawmakers should offer any amendments to the plan by noon Monday; the Senate Reapportionment Committee is set to meet Tuesday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

State Integrity Investigation - Live Webcast

State Integrity Investigation - Live Webcast
Thursday, March 22 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Register Today - Space Limited 

Join us for an interactive discussion about the State Integrity Investigation, our latest partnership with Public Radio International and Global Integrity. The project is the culmination of more than a year of unprecedented investigative work in which our reporters were deployed in every state capitol, digging in and uncovering the answers to 330 questions about how their state handles transparency and accountability. 

What did we find?
  • The risk of corruption remains high at state capitols across the country.
  • Not a single state received an “A” on our report card.
  • Some states have few accountability mechanisms, while others have laws on the books that are implemented poorly, if at all.
Don't miss this exclusive opportunity to hear from our reporters and get your questions answered. 

Register Now

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Florida Supreme Court Shoots Down Senate Redistricting Plan

Florida Supreme Court Shoots Down Senate Redistricting Plan, Setting Up Special Session  
On Friday, last day of the legislative session, the Florida Supreme Court offered a split decision to the state Legislature's redistricting plan, ruling unanimously that the plan for the House seats passed constitutional muster but the plan for the Senate lines failed to do so.    

'Anti-Sharia' Bill Dies in Senate

'Anti-Sharia' Bill Dies in Senate  
Assailed by Muslim groups and quashed by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, an "anti-Sharia" law bill died in the Florida Legislature on Friday.      

Rick Scott to Sign PIP Reform Law 'Very Soon'

Rick Scott to Sign PIP Reform Law 'Very Soon'  
Gov. Rick  Scott made a quick visit to the Senate floor late Friday after a bill to revamp personal injury protection auto insurance was sent to his desk.

Read More 

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Florida House of Representatives began voting on the proposed budget for the 2012-13

 The Florida House of Representatives began voting on the proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. As a reference to Members, staff and the general public, please find attached an updated summary of all House proposed conforming bills related to the budget. The summary may also be viewed on the Florida House of Representatives website or by selecting the link below:

You may also find this refresher on Florida's budget process helpful.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) For Vice President

Allen West On VP Speculation: 'I Am Always Willing And Ready To Serve My Country'

In an interview Tuesday morning on CNN, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) was asked about the prospects for fellow Floridian Marco Rubio to become the Republican nominee for Vice President this fall. West spoke favorably of Rubio — and then, the hosts asked West about himself as the potential running mate.
West jokingly cited his military experience to refer to the question as an "ambush."
"As far as the vice president thing, you know, who knows what the future lies — because it wasn't too long ago, you know, I was sitting in the desert of Kandahar, Afghanistan, and now I'm here talking with you. But, you know, I am always willing and ready to serve my country in whatever capacity that the American people would desire."

Friday, March 02, 2012

We need you to take action right now.

We need you to take action right now.

In a surprise move, the so-called "Parent Empowerment Act”/SB 1718 did not get enough votes today to move to the floor for a full vote.  Now there's a full-court press to pass this bill at all costs.  It's up to us to say no.

Click here to visit our sister site at to quickly send an email to the Florida Senate or click here for a list of phone numbers for each Senator.  Urge them to vote No on SB 1718. 
Some politicians are questioning their choice to listen to the Parent Revolution lobbyists from California instead of us. 
In an effort to move the bill to the floor, Senate leadership called for a  Budget Committee meeting tomorrow morning at 8a.m. with the plan to quietly vote and move this bill to the floor., 50th No More, Citizens for Strong Schools, Florida PTA, Marions United for Public Education, Save Duval Schools and Support Dade Schools issued a widely-published joint statement clearly stating that we do not support the so-called “Parent Empowerment Act."
Instead of empowering parents, this infamous “parent trigger” scheme does the following:
Uses parents’ concern for their children as a tool to pull the “trigger” and give their neighborhood school to a private for-profit charter management corporation
·         Strips power from parents and voters
·         Removes all local control from taxpayers
·         Destroys democratic process by taking neighborhood schools away from the jurisdiction of duly elected district officials
·         Allows a small group of people to make a major fiscal and education decision for everyone else’s child
·         Robs Florida taxpayers of a significant capital investment
For-profit charters answer to no elected official, profit off our children and do not “empower parents.”
Click here and send an email to the Florida Senate. Tell them that Florida parents oppose the "Parent Empowerment" bill.

Our children cannot afford profit-driven reforms that do not work.  Speak up today.  Give our children a voice at the table.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Controversial school prayer bill heads to governor's desk

A bill that would allow “inspirational messages,” including prayers, to be given during any school event, was passed on the House floor today with an 88-27 vote. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk.
    The bill has raised countless concerns from critics, including legal experts, who warn that it is unconstitutional and would throw school districts into “costly litigation.”
In an effort to make this point, state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, and state Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, introduced amendments that would stipulate whether the state or school boards would shoulder the costs of the litigation the law would likely spur. Both amendments failed.
As it is written, the bill does not restrict what kind of messages can be delivered during school events. School faculty in K-12 schools would be prohibited from monitoring the messages, leading many lawmakers to raise concerns that the measure, if adopted, could end up giving students the ability to deliver hateful or racist messages at school events.

Senate panel passes anti-sharia bill during ‘Muslim Day’ at Capitol

A Senate panel ended emotionally today after a group of people attending “Muslim Day” at the Capitol were shut out of speaking against a bill aimed at outlawing “foreign law” in family court cases. The measure, and past incarnations of it, have been touted by right-wing activists as an attempt to “stop the spread of Sharia in Florida.”
The bill, which is sponsored by state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, would regulate the “application of foreign law in certain cases.” It has been called “unnecessary” by critics.
A representative of the Family Law section of the Florida Bar argued that the bill is a “solution for a problem that does not exist” during a House committee’s consideration of the bill. She said there are already laws in place that safeguard against the intervention of laws that do not apply.
Groups including the Council on Islamic-American Relations and the Anti-Defamation League have said the bill would restrict religious freedom. Some have denounced the bill, a piece of model legislation written by anti-Islam leader David Yerushalmi, for its ties to extremism.
The bill was brought up during the last few minutes of a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting today. A motion to vote on the bill was requested as the committee chair, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, listed the many Muslim speakers hoping to testify against it.
Many hoping to testify against the bill told Bogdanoff that the motion was a “pre-planned” effort to “shut down” those who were against the bill.
Bogdanoff told the bill’s detractors that she would be willing to hear them out once the committee had already voted the bill forward. She also told the upset speakers that, if they wanted another committee hearing for the bill, they could take their concerns to Senate President Mike Haridopolos.