Farkas' plan: Davis gets I-4 district
© St. Petersburg Times
TALLAHASSEE -- U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young would keep St. Petersburg under one of three congressional redistricting plans adopted Monday by a House committee.
But helping St. Petersburg would hurt Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, whose district would be carved up and sent east along Intestate 4 all the way to Orlando.
The changes, proposed by Rep. Frank Farkas, R-St. Petersburg, keeps Young's district entirely in south and central Pinellas County but divides Hillsborough County among four congressional districts.
It's hard to say what ultimately will come out of the Legislature when redistricting is completed because the House Redistricting Council sent three different plans to the House floor for a vote, which could take place within two weeks.
Under the Farkas amendment, Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis' district would take in Hillsborough County's Town 'N Country neighborhood and the western edge of South Tampa.
The district now represented by U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, would start in northern Citrus County and drop down across Hernando and Pasco Counties and into east Hillsborough County.
A new congressional district would take up east Citrus, Pasco, and Hernando counties and stretch to suburban Orlando, where House Speaker Tom Feeney lives. Feeney is raising money to run for Congress and hopes the Legislature will draw him a suitable district.
Another House plan would extend Young's district across Tampa Bay into South Tampa, extend Davis' district along the Interstate 4 corridor and have the district currently represented by U.S. Rep. Dan Miller run up into South St. Petersburg from Manatee and Sarasota Counties.
The third plan would extend Young's district to Manatee County, leave Davis in central and South Tampa and extend Bilirakis' district into South Tampa.
All of the House plans would make it easier for Feeney to run but the Senate's plan doesn't. Instead, it creates a new Central Florida district likely to help Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville.
That creates another point of contention between the House and Senate, which already are battling over Senate President John McKay's controversial plan to overhaul the sales tax.
The Senate has adopted a single Congressional redistricting plan.
The House decision to send three congressional plans to the floor is unusual and leaves the ultimate boundaries very much up in the air.
It's not a trick designed to keep anyone from seeing the real plan, insisted Council Chairman Johnnie Byrd and Congressional Committee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart.
"There are really good aspects to all three plans," Diaz-Balart said after the meeting. "It means the best parts of three plans will win approval."
Sending three plans to the floor means "a lot of great ideas" will get to the members, Byrd said.
Byrd, a Plant City resident, said he isn't sure how Hillsborough County would react to being part of four congressional districts.
"At first blush people think they just want one, but think about it," Byrd told reporters after the meeting. "I'd rather have three members of Congress than one."
His Republican-dominated committee repeatedly rejected Democratic amendments and even rejected one plan submitted by Republican Dudley Goodlette, R-Naples.
Goodlette, co-chairman of the council, was trying to create a district that would keep the Naples and Fort Myers area together but other committee members said it would damage efforts to create minority districts in other parts of the state.
The committee also approved House and Senate redistricting plans over the objections of Democrats who say the plans would force at least 17 incumbents to run against each other and seriously fragment several South Florida counties, including Broward.
Rep. Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine, said the plan unnecessarily packs Democrats and minorities into some districts and increases the likelihood that Republicans will win.
House Majority Leader Lois Frankel accused GOP lawmakers of drawing lines that benefit Republicans at the expense of the public. "It appears the main motivating factor for House Republicans redrawing lines has been self-interest," Frankel said.
Byrd said he is optimistic the Legislature will finish redistricting by March 22, when the session is scheduled to end. But the entire matter could wind up in court.
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