Rival redistricting maps passed by House, Senate Special session in 'deep deadlock'

September 26, 1991|By C. Fraser Smith and Tom Bowman | C. Fraser Smith and Tom Bowman,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- The House and Senate passed competing versions of a new congressional map for Maryland yesterday as both sides prepared to begin the dance of compromise -- with each side hoping to lead.

Tempers were fraying on the first day of the General Assembly's special session.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, was so frustrated by what he regarded as lack of progress

toward a solution that he proposed adjourning the session until Oct. 21.

But Mr. Mitchell, who bolted from the State House as soon as last evening's brief meeting of the House ended, agreed to resume formal deliberations this morning at 11.

"Deep deadlock" accurately describes the current posture of the two houses, according to Delegate D. Bruce Poole, House majority leader.

"I wish it didn't," Mr. Poole said, "but it does." Nevertheless, Mr. Poole and others persuaded Speaker Mitchell to give the discussions another day -- and then to call a cooling off period if necessary.

Mr. Poole was expecting the two sides to confer informally last night. He said a number of compromise proposals are under consideration, but he declined to provide details.

Meanwhile, the Senate was expected to act as early as today on a compromise introduced by Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore. This plan, which was said to be gaining support, attempts to win the backing of Baltimore County legislators by dividing the county among only three districts -- compared with five in the House-backed bill. The Pica bill would attempt to deal with another major political difficulty by pitting Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, against Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, on the Eastern Shore -- a district where Democratic strength would be increased.

Uncertain of how he would fare on the Shore, Mr. McMillen has been attempting to have his Anne Arundel County base linked with portions of Howard County, Baltimore or some other Democratic stronghold.

Mr. Pica denied that there was a push for his bill, saying he would stick with the plan passed by the Senate yesterday and would try to work with the House toward a compromise.

The House map passed yesterday would pit Representatives Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, against Mr. McMillen in a district that includes parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties.

The Senate version would cast Mrs. Bentley in a district with Mr. Gilchrest, stretching from the outskirts of Baltimore to the lowest end of the Eastern Shore.

Both versions passed over the Baltimore County lawmakers' complaints that their county would be chopped into five congressional districts. Their amendments to alter the plan failed.

House and Senate leaders insisted they were open to compromise -- but reiterated the virtues of the vying plans they led to passage.

House Speaker Mitchell called the House version the "fairest plan," a view he predicted would become apparent as the Senate tries to make modifications.

"There would have to be a lot of give and take on both sides," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, before quickly adding, "I don't think the Senate is going to be willing to make significant concessions."

Mr. Miller said it made no sense pairing two veteran congressmen and leaving the member with the least seniority -- Mr. Gilchrest -- in his own district.

At the same time, the senator said he met with Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who "doesn't appear to be taking sides" on redistricting. The governor did, however, approve the House plan earlier.

The House-passed proposal carried by a vote of 89-43 -- four votes more than the 85 needed to pass the emergency legislation. The Senate vote was 33-13, also four more than needed.

LTC New election lines must be drawn this year to conform with the 1990 census. Each of the state's eight districts must have about the same number of residents -- approximately 598,000. The new districts will be used for the first time in the March primary and last for a decade.

The House plan was proposed by the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee, which several weeks earlier backed a plan that resembled the Senate plan.

Today in Annapolis

11 a.m.: House convenes, House chamber.

11:30 a.m.: Senate convenes, Senate chamber.

This is the second day of the special legislative session on congressional redistricting.

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