Redistricting battle lines are drawn The governor is insisting on minority role for legislators.

May 08, 1991|By William Thompson | William Thompson,Evening Sun Staff BHC JjB

Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he's willing to listen to the General Assembly when his administration draws up new congressional and legislative districts, but insisted that lawmakers be relegated to a minority role on a special advisory panel.

"If they don't want to work it this way, it's fine with me," said Schaefer yesterday in Annapolis. "They can come up with their own plan."

Although some House and Senate leaders privately grumbled that the governor wants to limit their role in retaliation for legislative opposition to many of his bills during the 1991 session, the official response was more gracious.

"We're willing to cooperate," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-City, the Senate point man on redistricting. "We like [Schaefer's offer] and we'll just have to fine-tune it."

Federal and state laws require that congressional and state legislative districts be redrawn after each census. In each case, the governor is required to propose a plan, which will become law unless the legislature changes it or adopts a plan of its own.

A special legislative session is scheduled for the fall to redraw Maryland's eight congressional districts in preparation for the 1992 election.

At the fall session, the legislature may also take up the boundaries of its own 141 House seats and 47 Senate seats. But legislative districts may actually be redrawn until after the 1992 session begins next January.

Schaefer's willingness to give the General Assembly a partnership in redistricting came nearly a month after legislators wrote the governor suggesting that the potentially controversial matter be handled as it was after the 1980 census.

At that time, Gov. Harry R. Hughes appointed a five-member redistricting commission consisting of the Senate president, the House speaker, the state treasurer and two citizens who did not hold an elected office.

"We believe that the 1980 approach was a very positive one. It permitted appropriate General Assembly input into the process, working cooperatively with the governor," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, wrote Schaefer last month.

But, following a private meeting of Schaefer aides late Monday, the governor yesterday sent word to Miller and Mitchell that he prefers to set up a smaller panel consisting of a single representative from both the House and the Senate and five other non-elected Schaefer appointees.

Pica said legislators would be more receptive to helping Schaefer draft his redistricting plans if he increased the panel to nine members -- four picked by Schaefer, four from the General Assembly and the ninth selected by agreement of both parties.

Schaefer said he is reluctant to give lawmakers more than two seats on the panel because he believes they will attempt to influence the redistricting plans to protect their incumbencies.

"I'm not going to have equal legislative representation," he said. "They will be out to protect their own interests, and that's not fair."

Schaefer also said he has two possible panel chairmen in mind, but would not disclose their identities.

The governor's position did not sit well with one legislative leader.

"The legislature would expect equality in the process," said Miller. "In all 49 of our sister states, the legislature draws the legislature's redistricting lines."

Schaefer aide Pamela J. Kelly said the governor wants to keep the panel as non-partisan as possible and intends to appoint citizens representing various races and geographical areas.

She said that even if the legislature decides to reject the role offered by Schaefer, the governor is prepared to form his panel quickly so that public hearings on redistricting proposals can begin by July.

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