A special legislative session to fix Florida’s flawed congressional district lines ended in chaos Friday as senators staged a walkout and the House rejected Senate requests to extend the session into a third week. Lawmakers ended the session on time but with no agreement on a new map. As a result, legislators have turned over the job of redrawing the 27 districts to a trial judge, who can choose a House or Senate map, solicit other options or create his own to comply with a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering lawmakers to fix eight districts that it said were illegally gerrymandered. “That should make everybody nervous,” said Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
It’s the third session this year that has ended amid feuding between Republicans and it creates political uncertainty heading into the 2016 elections. The latest hostility, prompted by Senate demands to reshape congressional lines in Tampa’s suburbs, threatens to disrupt an October special session to redraw Senate district lines across the state.
Gov. Rick Scott has the power to force the Legislature back to work to agree on a map before a court hearing Tuesday. But after lawmakers failed for a third time to draw a legally defensible map, Scott said he would not order lawmakers back to work.
By mid-afternoon Friday, most legislators had left town after being evicted from hotel rooms because tens of thousands of Florida State and Florida A&M students and their parents are descending on Tallahassee for the start of the fall semester next week.