Number please? Senate proposes random scheme for numbering districts

A random numbering scheme for Senate districts is created
A random numbering scheme for Senate districts is created

In an attempt to blunt criticism that a Senate district numbering plan is designed to protect some incumbents from having to face re-election next year, redistricting staff Thursday unveiled an alternate, random-numbering plan.

The random scheme will be presented as an alternative to an approach proposed by Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, that would shield from re-election next year a majority of senators who support Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, for the powerful post of Senate president next year.

Negron, whose district includes northern Palm Beach County, is in a leadership battle with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Reducing the number of Negron supporters who have to run next year is certain to help increase his odds of winning the tussle.

The Redistricting Committee is scheduled to meet Friday to begin working through a dozen maps that have been proposed by lawmakers and staff.

District numbers normally decide which senators have to run for re-election.

Only odd-numbered seats are scheduled to be on the ballot next year — although Senate Democrats argue that a 1982 Florida Supreme Court ruling makes it clear that the entire Senate should face re-election after redistricting, which changes many of the voters in each district.

Galvano, though, said he will leave it up to the Senate Redistricting Committee to decide whether to select the random numbering plan or the proposal that could keep the Senate’s current seat numbering — and set the stage for having only half the chamber run next year.

Democratic Sens. Oscar Braynon of Miami and Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth argue that the Senate is on a collision course with the state Supreme Court by attempting to keep incumbents off the ballot.

Florida’s voter-approved Fair Districts amendments prohibit drawing district lines intended to help incumbents or a party retain power.

“There’s some political taint in this process,” Braynon said. “When you go before the court and they say ‘we think there may be some (political) intent here, we’re just trying to do our parts as senators and saying, ‘look be prepared for that to be said.'”

Clemens added that a majority of the maps prepared by Republican lawmakers and legislative staff risk being declared unconstitutional by justices, at least because he said one district spanning Tampa Bay helps assure the re-election of a GOP incumbent by fracturing a community of black voters.

Justices have already condemned similar line-drawing in throwing out a congressional district plan approved by lawmakers. A map proposed by a lower court is now awaiting review by the Supreme Court.

“You can draw your own conclusions from that,” Clemens said. “I’m just saying…this is unconstitutional by previous court decisions.”

The court will ultimately decide the Senate boundaries as part of an agreement between Senate Republican leaders and voters groups, which challenged the 2012 redistricting map as being crafted to help the GOP maintain its powerful majority.


Republican sniping and seat numbering dominates redistricting

Senate redistricting gets a little tense.
Senate redistricting gets a little tense.

Republican senators continued sniping Wednesday while reviewing plans for redrawing their election boundaries and a seat numbering scheme that could help a leadership bid by a Palm Beach County lawmaker.

Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano advanced the position that only half the 40-member Senate should face re-election next year – even if virtually every district changed in the effort to comply with a legal settlement with voters’ groups.

Under the seat-numbering plan proposed Wednesday, eight of the 13 Republican supporters of Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, would be shielded from facing re-election contests next fall.

Negron represents northern Palm Beach County and is locked in a bitter contest for next year’s Senate presidency with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. Having a majority of his backers guaranteed of holding onto their seats would benefit Negron’s chances.

Galvano, R-Bradenton, is among those who pledged to support Negron. But under criticism, Galvano agreed late Wednesday to also consider randomly assigning numbers to seats — and letting the Redistricting Committee choose which way to go.

“We’re on a really thin line here,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, who added his own redistricting proposal Wednesday to six statewide plans already drawn by House and Senate staff.

“If you’re going to make the argument that some people don’t have to run here, the question is…why?” Clemens said, adding, “It’s a clear violation of a constitutional mandate that we not go through this process for a political purpose or to protect incumbents.”

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Florida Joe Biden supporters react to his decision not to run for president

The Draft Biden effort never got a signal to stop or slow down, state Sen. Jeremy Ring noted.
The Draft Biden effort never got a signal to stop or slow down, state Sen. Jeremy Ring noted.

Vice President Joe Biden‘s decision not to enter the 2016 presidential race surprised state Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, who’s been involved in the Draft Biden effort and thought recent signs pointed toward a run.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring
State Sen. Jeremy Ring

Ring said Biden would have added excitement to the race for Democrats.

“There’s always enthusiasm around a presidential election. But I think with Joe Biden there would have been more enthusiasm around the individual. So it does take some of that away,” Ring said.

State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo
State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo

Another Democrat who urged Biden to run, state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Boynton Beach, tried to look at the bright side.

“The good news is we have Joe Biden to help lead our nation for another year. The unfortunate news is that when the vice president exits public office he will be irreplaceable,” Abruzzo said.

schale biden tweet
Tallahassee-based Democratic strategist Steven Schale, who signed on with the Draft Biden movement recently, told his Twitter followers he “Couldn’t be more proud to have been standing up for @JoeBiden. He represents the absolute best in what we all want in public service.”

Biden’s wrestling with a potential run was always linked to how he and his family are coping with the loss of son Beau Biden, who died of cancer in May.

Delray Beach resident Frank Biden, brother of the vice president.
Delray Beach resident Frank Biden, brother of the vice president.

“It’s all about the dialogue between his head and his heart,” the vice president’s brother, Delray Beach resident Frank Biden, said last week.

Ring said he believes Biden’s head was in the race, but his heart wasn’t.

“He wanted to do it, from the standpoint that they’ve been running a campaign for awhile now. He never told the Draft Biden team to stop or slow down,” Ring said. “If he ever could have figured out a way to emotionally make it work with all the tragedy that’s really pretty recent, he would have.”

Corey Jones shooting: Florida black lawmakers unite behind call for independent probe

Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, and black legislators want an independent probe of Corey Jones' shooting.
Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, and black legislators want an independent probe of Corey Jones’ shooting.

Black legislators united Wednesday behind a call for the state to conduct an independent investigation into last weekend’s shooting death of Corey Jones by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer.

Florida Conference of Black State Legislators Chairman Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, said it was important for Gov. Rick Scott to order the probe to “restore public confidence” between the black community and Palm Beach Gardens police.

The investigation also would help resolve issues surrounding the early Sunday encounter between Jones and Officer Nouman Raja, who has been placed on administrative leave. A caucus member, Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park, first proposed the state-run probe Tuesday.

Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, said he has spoken with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg who said two investigations are currently underway, one led by his office and another by the county’s Sheriff’s Office.

“Yesterday I spoke with the governor, who assured me he wants to gather all the facts,” said Powell, who said the caucus wants Scott to order the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct its own probe.

“This has to stop,” Powell added. “There’s no evidence that we’ve seen that this man was a trouble maker. My community is frustrated, and rightfully so.”

The black caucus also said Jones’ death underscores the need for legislation requiring police to wear body cameras and have vehicle dashboard cameras to record encounters between officers and the public. Other legislation proposed by caucus members would require enhanced police training on possible racial biases.

Jones, a Delray Beach Housing Authority employee and drummer in local bands, was shot early Sunday morning by Officer Nouman Raja near an Interstate-95 exit ramp. Jones’ car apparently had broken down and Raja stopped at the scene in plain clothes while driving an unmarked vehicle, authorities said.

Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said, “The governor offered the assistance of FDLE in the two ongoing investigations by the State Attorney’s Office and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office into the death of Corey Jones. Our office continues to monitor any developments.”

» RELATED: Read the Palm Beach Post’s complete coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Hillary Clinton coming to North Palm Beach for Oct. 2 fundraiser

Hillary Clinton at a 2013 appearance at the University of Miami.
Hillary Clinton at a 2013 appearance at the University of Miami.

Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton will visit the North Palm Beach home of prominent trial lawyer Fred Cunningham for an Oct. 2 fundraiser.

The event carries a $2,700-a-head price tag.

Cunningham is a former president of the Florida Justice Association who has raised money for several Democrats.

Fred Cunningham
Fred Cunningham

After the North Palm Beach event, Clinton is expected to go to previously announced fundraisers that day in Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

It’s unclear whether Clinton will appear at any public events while she’s in Florida.


During her last visit to the Sunshine State on July 31, Clinton slammed Jeb Bush in a speech to the National Urban League conference in Fort Lauderdale and called for lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba in a speech at Florida International University in Miami.


Clinton did only closed-door money events when she visited Florida in May.





Crisafulli puts kibosh on Senate’s pitch for another special session on congressional map

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says 'no' to another special session on congressional redistricting (House photo)
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says ‘no’ to another special session on congressional redistricting
(House photo)

Florida’s battle over congressional redistricting looks likely to be played out in the courts — not before state lawmakers — after House Speaker Steve Crisafulli rejected the Senate’s latest bid for another special session.

In a letter sent Tuesday to House members, Crisafulli said chances for reaching agreement with the Senate by a Sept. 25 deadline set by a court fell somewhere between slim and none.

Instead, Crisafulli said the House will argue before a Leon County circuit judge that the map it prepared in August’s failed special session is what should be recommended to the state Supreme Court, which will get a final look at the best way to draw the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Crisafulli’s letter follows Friday’s ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis should hold a hearing to review maps advanced by the House, Senate and others and pass on a recommendation.

Like Senate President Andy Gardiner, justices also held out the possibility of the Legislture reconvening. But Crisafulli’s letter apparently puts an end to such speculation.