The Florida Legislature's special session on congressional redistricting begins Monday with brief floor sessions in both houses. Two dozen lawmakers have asked to be excused from the opening day of the two-week gathering.
Miami-Dade has the most number of requested absences with five. Miami-area Sens. Miguel Diaz de La Portilla, Rene Garcia and Gwen Margolis said they plan to be absent. Margolis, 80, said in a letter she will undergo hip replacement surgery Tuesday and is expected to miss the entire session. Also excused are Sens. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; Alan Hays, R-Umatilla; Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater; and Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli's office provided a list of 17 House members who asked to be excused Monday. They include two from Miami-Dade, Democrat Joe Geller and Republican Jeanette Nunez, and three from Tampa Bay: Republicans Shawn Harrison, Ross Spano and Chris Sprowls. The others are Democrat Dave Kerner and Republicans Bill Hager, Mike Hill, Marlene O'Toole, Rene Plasencia, Cory Pigman, Ray Pilon, Patrick Rooney, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan, John Tobia and Charles Van Zant.
Most of the work in Special Session B will be handled by the two redistricting committees, chaired by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.
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Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, a member of the House Select Committee on Redistricting, has a campaign fund-raiser scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday at the Florida Association of Realtors in Tallahassee. Legislatuve rules prohibit soliciting or accepting campaign money during regular and special sessions, but the redistricting session officially begins at 3 p.m. Monday.