Right now, the only thing standing between Florida taxpayers and $68,000 is Representative Perry Thurston, the Democratic leader in the Florida House of Representatives.
Sixty-eight thousand dollars is the approximate cost to taxpayers of a single day of the Legislature meeting in special session. Already, the tab is in six-figures. How much more that gets added to it comes down to whether or bit Thurston puts his personal political ambitions ahead of the needs and desires of everyone else.
Legislative committees on Friday approved a proposal to make slight changes to seven congressional districts to comply with a court order. Members of the House committee voted down an alternative proposal from Democrats along party lines that would have made changes to only three districts, but that lessened the black voting-age population in Brown’s district from nearly 50 percent to 43.7 percent.
The full House will take the bill up on second reading today. If two-thirds of the House vote to waive the rules — a vote which would require Thurston to persuade his Democratic colleagues to agree to — the bill could be taken up on third reading today, get passed out of the House, and head to the Senate, where it could also be rolled into third reading and passed. Trust me, the whole process is simpler than it sounds.
Right now, everyone is on board for this plan, except for Thurston. Obviously, Republicans in the House and Senate are on board. Enough Democrats in the Senate are on board. The only obstacle is Thurston.
Thurston is locked in a primary versus George Sheldon for the Democratic nomination to challenge Pam Bondi. The latest polls show the race neck-and-neck. Because they are Democrats running statewide against an incumbent Republican in Florida, Thurston and Sheldon have struggled to raise money. In a perverse twist of political fate, Thurston is actually benefitting from this special session by receiving earned media attention he would not otherwise receive. Most lawmakers running for re-election are upset that legislative rules prohibit fundraising while in session. Not Thurston. Every minute he is in Tallahassee is another opportunity for him to be interviewed or quoted.
This is why Thurston has no issue with delaying final passage of the redistricting map everyone knows is going to pass. Holding up the final vote, as is the minority party’s prerogative, may cost taxpayers another $68,000, but it’s another day’s worth of free publicity for candidate Thurston.
Judge Terry Lewis gave lawmakers until next Friday to adopt new districts.
He plans a hearing Aug. 20 to decide whether to conduct a special election after the Nov. 4 general election in districts affected by the changes in the new map. The Republicans argue that any changes should take effect in 2016.
According to the Florida Department of State, 284,673 absentee ballots for the Aug. 26 primary election have already been cast statewide.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.