Florida’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted in a special session on Thursday to send two highly controversial bills — one that greenlights Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to redraw the 28 districts of the State in a pro-GOP setup that divides black voters and another that would eliminate the special district of Walt Disney World — to the governor’s office for signature.
DeSantis’ map, if it survives expected legal challenges, would undo any gains Democrats made during the national redistricting process by adding four Republican-leaning seats and eliminating three highly competitive seats from the previous map. That would leave the state with 18 Republican-leaning and eight Democratic-leaning seats and threaten the already wafer-thin majority Democrats hold in the House of Representatives.
It would also divide black voters by halving the number of majority black districts from four to two and revamping Florida’s 5th District, which stretches across North Florida from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and is represented in Congress by a black Democrat – Rep. Al Lawson.
The measure that would eliminate Walt Disney World’s status was proposed by Republicans after Disney pledged to help repeal Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which limits the teaching of gender. gender identity and orientation in the classroom. The bill would end the 25,000-acre Reedy Creek Improvement District that Walt Disney World uses to operate as its own municipality, along with five others.
ABC News is owned by The Walt Disney Company, which also owns Walt Disney World.
Florida Democrats’ attempt to block both votes failed Thursday despite a group marching into the House with protest signs moments before the legislature is scheduled to vote around noon.
One such protester was Rep. Angie Nixon, who called on the Legislature to draw its own map rather than moving forward with the one submitted by DeSantis and his advisers.
“Our demands are clear. The legislature must draw maps,” Nixon said. “Republicans in power must come to the Democratic leadership, and we will draw constitutional maps. These are our demands and we will not be moved.”
Democrats were able to avoid the special session for an hour, but Republicans eventually returned to the chamber and decided to successfully push both bills forward, over the shouts and chants of dissenters.
“This is how democracy dies: with a round of applause,” Rep. Anna Eskami wrote on Twitter moments after the legislature approved the redistricting map.
DeSantis, a Republican, initially called the special session after vetoing a GOP-backed version of redistricting maps passed by the Florida House and Senate, saying preserving districts that group voters by race was unconstitutional.
Earlier this month, DeSantis pledged to submit a “race-neutral” card.
“We’re not going to have a 200-mile gerrymander that divides people based on the color of their skin. That’s wrong,” DeSantis said. “That’s not the way we’ve governed in the state of Florida and so that will be it. And obviously that will be the subject of litigation.”
On Wednesday, the Republican-led Florida Senate voted to pass both bills, which are expected to be signed into law by the end of the week.
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