Schaefer to meet legislators halfway on redistricting body

May 10, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Correspondent

CONOWINGO -- A suddenly conciliatory Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that he was willing to work with legislators to set up an advisory committee on redistricting that both sides can live with.

Governor Schaefer, appearing at the dedication of a fish lift at the hydroelectric dam on the Susquehanna River here, said he would go along with a legislative proposal to expand his proposed seven-member advisory panel to nine members, if that was what legislators wanted.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, said legislators want the redistricting panel increased to nine members, or dropped to five, so that the legislative and executive branches each have the same number of representatives -- either two or four. The chairman of the panel would be someone acceptable to both branches.

"We're going to work it out," Mr. Mitchell said. "We're not trying to dictate to the governor. All we want is equality on the commission."

Mr. Schaefer agreed, saying the dispute that erupted earlier this week over the makeup of the committee "is not going to be a problem."

Mr. Mitchell and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, had objected to Mr. Schaefer's original plan because only two of the seven members of the governor's proposed committee would have been legislators.

Other than to say he had spoken with Mr. Mitchell about the problem, the governor did not explain why he now was willing to compromise on the issue. But legislators suggested that the governor realized the General Assembly was fully prepared to move ahead with its own redistricting plans, without Mr. Schaefer.

"What it is, the legislature is poised and ready to proceed with a legislative reapportionment committee," Senator Miller said. "In deference to the governor, and to our many constituents who would be inconvenienced by duplicate public hearings around the state, we intend to exhaust all possible avenues to work with the executive branch before announcing our [own] committee and our [own] schedule of public hearings."

Mr. Schaefer said he has decided on a chairman for the advisory panel, but he declined to identify the person. A formal announcement of the full membership of the panel could be made by early next week, according to Mr. Schaefer and legislators.

The panel is expected to hold public hearings around the state on how the boundaries for Maryland's eight congressional and 47 state legislative districts should be redrawn, in accordance with population statistics produced by the 1990 U.S. Census.

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