House Speaker Dean Cannon said state lawmakers will focus on the budget and redistricting in the next legislative session. (Photo courtesy of Dean Cannon.)

By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The issue of immigration enforcement continues to feed the Republican Party’s conservative base and the content on cable news channels (see: Rick Perry and Herman Cain).

And yet, in Florida, the hot-button issue has grown curiously lukewarm.

Apparently, last year’s clumsy attempt to pass an immigration bill made an impression. Senate President Mike Haridopolos twice appointed an ally to shepherd the bill through the legislative process, and twice the lawmaker balked at pushing for a hard-line measure.

As a result, an immigration bill — the stated goal of Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders — never passed.

The decision to focus on tighter immigration enforcement also caused a rift with at least some segments of traditional Republican allies: Cuban-Americans and agricultural and business interests.

So this coming session, Republicans are apparently backing off from trying to pass an immigration bill.

According to House Speaker Dean Cannon, lawmakers will probably be too busy with the state budget (which is expected to have a $2 billion shortfall) and redistricting. Redistricting is the once-a-decade process by which political boundaries — from school board to Congressional districts — are drawn. The way they are drawn can determine the political future of incumbents.

In Tallahassee, redistricting is so significant that it may kick immigration enforcement to the curb this year.

There’s no doubt it has Cannon’s interest. Cannon was the man who, earlier this year, pushed the House into joining a lawsuit filed by Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Democratic U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown challenging the voter-approved Fair Districts Amendments. Those two amendments demand that the drawing of districts avoid any manipulation to help a particular party or legislator.

So far, the House has allocated $1 million — and counting — for legal fees.

That’s a million bucks in taxpayer money being used to fight Florida voters.