Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Calling out a Dysfunctional Legislature

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Calling out a Dysfunctional Legislature

Article excerpt

POLITICAL INSIDER

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is familiar with dysfunctional governing bodies.

Congress has a 19 percent approval rating and Buchanan believes that the dysfunctional tag is well earned "in a lot of aspects."

"But when you look at the state, they've always seemed like they've been better about resolving these issues," said the Longboat Key Republican.

The latest legislative meltdown over congressional redistricting has Buchanan questioning that assessment of the GOP-controlled Legislature, though, and fuming over the uncertainty that continues to surround his congressional district.

Florida lawmakers adjourned a two-week session earlier this month without approving a new congressional map. Buchanan had been lobbying for changes to a "base map" proposed by legislative staffers. The base map cuts southern Sarasota County out of his district. Buchanan wants to keep the entire county in one district, but that decision likely is now up to the courts.

"It's not brain surgery," Buchanan said. "They had one issue, one job to get done in two weeks. It's discouraging they couldn't get it resolved."

There was a push during the two-week special session to amend the base map and keep Buchanan's congressional district in its current form, covering all of Sarasota County and most of Manatee.

Sen. Nancy Detert introduced an amendment but it was passed over in the Senate for a broader change that encompassed other districts in the Tampa Bay region and Central Florida.

Detert said she expects her more narrowly focused amendment to be submitted to the court for consideration, along with the other maps drawn by the House and Senate. She hopes that the court will view her proposal as a simple fix to an issue she says is not about partisanship or protecting an incumbent, but keeping communities with common interests in one district.

The fact that it is likely now out of the Legislature's hands is "an embarrassment," Detert said, adding: "We should be able to come to some middle ground."

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who chairs the Senate redistricting committee, has been trying to bridge the divide between the chambers. …

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