After nearly two hours of non-stop questioning of Rep.Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, Monday, the Florida House took a short recess so that the chairman of the House Select Committee on Redistricting could catch his breath. Corcoran knew what was in store for him. Earlier he had nearly walked in on the Democratic Caucus meeting where a strategy of pelting him with questions was laid out for members.
Lawmakers have until Friday to come up with a new congressional district map. Democrats don’t like how Corcoran came up with a proposal to comply with the Fair District Amendment to the state constitution. He didn’t include them in meetings when the map was drawn.
Monday morning, Corcoran stood in a doorway and listened to Democratic Leader Perry Thurston explain his frustration with Democrats being shut out of the redesign process.
Corcoran said he stopped by the Democrats’ office suite to check with Thurston before the House went into session to take up the proposed map.
“It’s something I do, I was in the minority once,” said Corcoran, expected to be Speaker for the 2017-18 sessions.
Corcoran stood in a doorway and listened in while Thurston and incoming Democratic Leader Mark Pafford advised their troops to ask many questions and give a thorough vetting to Corcoran’s proposal. d fix.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis had ruled July 10 lawmakers had a “mockery” of the process when they drew the previous map in 2012.
Thurston told his troops based on Lewis’ findings that the Democrats should have been invited to participate in redesigning the districts or Republicans should have accepted Thurston’s proposed amendment to swear in witnesses when questioned about the process.
“What the judge ruled . . . He basically said that they violated the constitution, it was intentional and they manipulated the process to make it look like the public was participating when it was really their operatives,” said Thurston. “If we are a little apprehensive about just agreeing with their maps, we think it is rightfully so.”
When asked about the Democrats’ criticism about the proposed map and lack of access to participate on the design, Corcoran responded, “In committee meetings the comments on both sides were very favorable. I’ll just take what was said there.”
Having a majority in the Legislature has its advantages or being in the minority has certain disadvantages. The Democrats, lacking the votes to impose their will, can express their disapproval in procedures and processes by asking questions on the House floor for as long as the rules allow.
Here’s how Pafford explained the strategy to the Democratic Caucus Monday. The remarks have been edited for brevity.
“We are not only at a disadvantage when it comes to voting but with these circumstances we are placed at an additional disadvantage.
“We don’t have the type of staff; we don’t have staff that previously drew those unconstitutional maps, we don’t have the attorneys or consultants. Our staff has no memory of what occurred in 2012, nobody walked in like men in black and basically put a flashbulb in front of the staff that created those maps and that information have been able to maintain.
“And so we are at a disadvantage.
“Then we go into legislative session and lo and behold a PCB comes down while some of us are in committee meeting, OK, and the very following day we are asked to support or not support that bill – this is the map.
“Then, it appears that Rep. Thurston’s amendment just doesn’t suit the majority of those in that committee in terms of it being analyzed well enough, what do we do?
“Well, I stayed in town this weekend and waited for maybe somebody to call a committee meeting. But there is nothing that occurred between Friday and today. That time that was allotted for whatever reason in terms of a special session has been blown off.
“And we need to actually dig in. Individually we can all talk to this. You don’t need to be a master or an expert to know when you are getting fooled.
“I will submit as Perry did earlier that this is a dog-and-pony show. There has been very little change to this map in terms of what the judge kicked back. My guess is they made enough changes to kick it back and that is not what the judge said.
“We need to be bigger than that and we need to ask those questions.”