Senate president mum on redistricting switch As Miller traveled, his map was tossed

September 22, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., on his return yesterday from a vacation in Ireland, declined to support or oppose a new congressional redistricting plan adopted during his absence.

"I'm not going to deal with that issue today," said the senate president. "My baggage isn't even here. I think it's in London.

"The plan they're talking about I've never seen before," said the man described as primary architect of an earlier redistricting map, one that was thrown out in his absence by the governor's advisory committee, of which he is a member. Mr. Miller said he would comment after speaking with the man who apparently assumed leadership of the redistricting process in his absence, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent.

"I don't know what his motivation is," Mr. Miller said.

Unless Mr. Miller becomes a fan of the new proposal -- not likely, based on his strong support for the earlier map -- a lively duel of alternative maps seems likely when the General Assembly convenes Wednesday in special session for adoption of a redistricting plan.

As members of the five-person committee appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Miller have both spent the summer looking for boundaries that would satisfy the incumbent members of Congress, the courts and various other interests, including the governor.

A new map for the remainder of this decade must be devised to account for changes in the state population documented in the 1990 Census.

Asked if he found it extraordinary that the commission would meet and vote on a new plan without him, Mr. Miller chuckled. "Different circumstances arise at different times that require action. I know the speaker is anxious to talk to me," he said.

While extremely controversial, the initial commission plan seemed to be moving toward acceptability after adjustments requested by Mr. Schaefer were made.

But the plan adopted by the commission last Thursday puts Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, in the same district with Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th. Under the map originally adopted under Mr. Miller's leadership, Mr. McMillen was the sole incumbent congressman in a new district drawn specifically with the preservation of his seat in mind.

But that plan angered a wide array of interests, principally Mrs. Bentley, who found herself facing the unhappy prospect of running against her Republican colleague, freshman Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st. Mrs. Bentley's unhappiness brought Mr. Schaefer more directly into the redistricting fray.

Mr. Schaefer and other Democrats criticized the original plan for separating Mrs. Bentley from constituents around the Port of Baltimore -- voters she has represented for four terms and for whom she has worked to stimulate port business.

Mr. Schaefer said at a news conference last week that he expected Mr. Miller or some other senator to introduce the latest plan adopted by the commission.

"I don't see how a member of the commission could fail to introduce a plan recommended by the commission," he said.

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