State House Maneuvering

May 10, 1991

Slowly but surely, State House leaders are maneuvering toward a joint committee on congressional and legislative redistricting. If it comes to pass, it would be a welcome development.

The governor is mandated by the state constitution to draw up redistricting plans -- one for congressional seats and one for General Assembly seats -- in line with the 1990 census. The legislators then have 45 days to accept the plans or to come up with plans of their own. All this activity must take place by next spring.

Ten years ago, Gov. Harry R. Hughes and legislative leaders agreed on a joint redistricting panel. But this year, hostility between Gov. William Donald Schaefer and key legislators soured relations to the point that important issues requiring careful legislative-executive coordination were jeopardized. It appeared likely that two competing redistricting committees might be set up, creating even more ill will in the State House.

But calmer heads now seem to be prevailing. House and Senate leaders sent a letter to the governor last month seeking a joint arrangement. This week, the governor responded, suggesting an advisory group with only two legislative members. That angered Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. Then Governor Schaefer got adamant, too. It looked like another war of words would erupt.

Fortunately, intermediaries kept the dialogue going. Then the governor made exceptionally conciliatory remarks yesterday. Both sides now seem willing to compromise.

Hooray!

While redistricting is usually a political insider's game, this disagreement has taken on far larger import. If the governor and Assembly leaders can work in tandem on redrawing legislative maps, combined efforts on other major matters may be possible. That could help get substantive discussions untracked on tax reform, growth management and financing transportation programs.

We applaud the governor for taking the initiative and seeking to accommodate legislators. That was sorely lacking in the last General Assembly session. House and Senate leaders now have an obligation to meet the governor halfway. We've had too much confrontational politics already. What Annapolis needs is a period of cooperation.

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