ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Legislative Black Caucus held a news conference Friday morning to discuss the congressional maps approved by the Florida legislature.
The measure was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday and it’s already facing legal challenges.
Several voting rights groups filed a lawsuit in Leon County claiming the map doesn’t comply with state redistricting laws.
Reps. Kamia Brown and Travaris McCurdy, along with Sen. Randolph Bracy, held the news conference before the bill was signed and the lawsuit was filed.
“What you’ve seen from the governor has been thug-like behavior. He is clearly violating the law,” Bracy said.
During a debate on a congressional map pushed by DeSantis in the Florida House on Thursday, Black lawmakers protested saying it will diminish the state’s Black representation in the U.S. House. DeSantis’ map would increase Florida’s GOP representation in Florida. Brown said the map reduces black representation in Congress from four districts to two.
“What we’re doing by diminishing it really is silencing the votes,” Brown said.
State Rep. Randy Fine said litigation was anticipated, but he believes the map follows federal and state laws.
“We’ve passed maps that are, I believe, constitutionally compliant that will be litigated, but any map where we didn’t gerrymander and give the Democrats everything they wanted were going to be litigated,” Fine said.
As debate on the maps was nearing an end, Reps. Angie Nixon and McCurdy opened up their suit jackets to display “Stop The Black Attack” T-shirts and shouted the same phrase. They sat on the state seal in front of the House speaker’s rostrum and were soon joined by other Black Democrats and other supporters.
Fine said the demonstration was worse than the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“People who swore an oath to the constitution of the United States and the constitution of Florida violated that oath and were seditionists. They actively attempted to prevent us from doing our constitutional duty,” Fine said.
McCurdy responded to Fine’s comment on Friday.
“This was our final attempt to shed some light on this issue and that’s why we did it,” McCurdy said.
The map passed with a vote of 68 for and 34 against in a mostly party-line vote.
Last week, Bracy called out the maps proposed by DeSantis and said the governor used intimidation tactics to get his plan passed.
“The governor has threatened to ‘primary’ Republican lawmakers (who) vote against this map,” Bracy said. “He also has threatened to veto all of their projects if they vote against his congressional maps.”
Bracy added this important issue was overshadowed by the bill DeSantis also signed into law on Friday that dissolves special districts in Florida, including Walt Disney World’s private government Reedy Creek.
“I believe that the Reedy Creek bill dealing with Disney was designed, the timing was designed that way to overshadow what he was doing with the maps. I think that was clear,” Bracy said.
The move could have huge tax implications for Disney, whose series of theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and serves to further sour the relationship between the Republican-led government and a major political player in the state.