Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida reports: Two weeks after Sen. Alan Hays’ controversial remarks on the possibility of a Congressional district meant to give Latinos an opportunity to elect a representative of their choice, Hispanic lawmakers are continuing to hammer the Umatilla Republican and call for his removal from a key committee.
But Hays remains silent, and the calls for him to be kicked off the panel overseeing the once-a-decade redistricting process appear to be headed nowhere. Even with two lawmakers calling again Wednesday for Hays to step aside, Senate President Mike Haridopolos brushed away a question about Hays’ status.
“I think he regrets what he might have said,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters at the annual Associated Press legislative planning day. “I think he wishes he would have said it maybe a little more clearly.”
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said after a meeting of his committee that Haridopolos had not spoken with him about Hays’ status on the committee. Hays declined comment after a meeting of the Senate GOP caucus.
At an Oct. 18 meeting of Gaetz’s committee, Hays expressed caution about a seat pursued by Puerto Rican advocates who want a district to represent their growing population in Central Florida.
“I just don’t think that it’s right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting, anyhow,” Hays said then.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens at birth.
Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, formally joined the chorus calling for Hays’ replacement Wednesday with a letter to Haridopolos over the comment.
“This implies that many of my Hispanic constituents are undocumented, which is false and offensive,” wrote Soto, whose father is Puerto Rican. “In addition, it seems to indicate that we are somehow unworthy of voting and of having representation.”
Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, slammed Haridopolos for not removing Hays already.
“It was insensitive for Senator Hays to make his comments, but your failure to protect the interests of all Floridians is reproachful,” she wrote. “I feel the message that you are sending to the Latino population is that their voice is not heard.”
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