Drastic changes in the air

Newswatch... on Maryland politics

December 21, 1990|By Peter Kumpa

One congressional redistricting plan for Maryland that is being pushed by some Democratic leaders would create a new district in the Washington suburbs, chop the Eastern Shore in half and lump the two Republican incumbents in the 1st and 2nd districts into one district where they would fight it out in 1992.

If this scheme is accepted by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and endorsed by a special session of the General Assembly in the fall, probably October, it would amount to the most dramatic changes in the map of the state's congressional districts in decades. "The changes satisfy more people than any other plan," one source explained.

The drastic redrawing has been made possible by the defeat of Rep. Roy Dyson, D-1st, by Wayne Gilchrest, a Kent County Republican. The district extends from Harford County through the entire Eastern Shore and over to the Southern Maryland counties -- Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's.

Maryland will not lose or gain a seat as a result of the 1990 census but it will maintain its eight congressional seats. The lines of all the districts will have to be redrawn because of shifts in population. All districts in the state must have as equal a population as possible. The courts insist that the difference be no more than a percentage point or less.

Rep. Kweisi Mfume's 7th District (mostly Baltimore City) and Rep. Constance A. Morella's 8th District (Montgomery County) are districts whose populations are most out of balance, according to preliminary census estimates. Morella would have to give up somewhere between 80,000 to 100,000 people, and Mfume would have to pick up about the same amount to balance their districts.

The Democratic plan would create a new district out of parts of Prince George's and Montgomery counties, mainly within the Capitol Beltway. This new district would have a heavy minority population. It would meet the many calls by black leaders for a second district in the state where a black could be elected.

Most of Prince George's now lies in the 5th Congressional District represented by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a rising star in Congress and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. The district is about half black with the minority population growing. That might make the district risky for Hoyer in the years ahead.

The highest priority for the Democrats in the redistricting is to protect Hoyer and keep him in office. "He's our $2-billion-dollar man," explained one Schaefer aide this week. That meant that Hoyer, with his leadership role and his key membership on the House Appropriations Committee, is valuable in delivering important projects to the state.

Hoyer's district, under the drastic scheme, would include part of Prince George's then sweep to the south to take in Charles and St. Mary's. Democratic strategists believe this would provide Hoyer with a safe seat for the foreseeable future.

The 4th District, represented by three-term Democratic Rep. Tom McMillen, now covers all of Anne Arundel County and a wedge of Prince George's. Under the plan, it would jump the Chesapeake Bay to take in the lower portions of the Eastern Shore.

The upper parts of the Shore would be squeezed together into the current Second District, now represented by Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, a Lutherville Republican. Bentley and Gilchrest would be in the same district and would forced to run against each other to win re-election.

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Look for a major effort in next year's session of the General Assembly for an overhaul of lobbying laws. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. will be swinging his weight behind the legislation. And such top lobbyists as Alan M. Rifkin will be leading the charge to break "the unholy alliance" between lobbying and campaign financing.

At the very least, the reform effort is aiming for legislation that would make public exactly how much lobbyists, by themselves and through their clients or others, contribute to the political campaigns of legislators they try to influence during the legislative session.

Rifkin sees serious ethical questions about the present practice that allows lobbyists to funnel large amounts of money into campaigns without public reporting.

L "If there's nothing to hide, why not disclose it?" he asked.

Rifkin says he is concerned about a public perception that lobbying has become a tainted profession. Many people believe that spending by lobbyists on political campaigns amounts to buying lawmakers. He feels that view is unfair to both lobbyists and legislators.

Other bills will revamp the giving of gifts and entertaining by lobbyists. Bruce Bereano, the top earning lobbyist, recently reported that in the past year, he spent $862 per lawmaker for gifts, meals and entertaining. Present law does not require public disclosure of those who received gifts.

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