House recesses without accord on redistricting Compromise plan would pit Gilchrest against McMillen

September 27, 1991|By Tom Bowman and C. Fraser Smith | Tom Bowman and C. Fraser Smith,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun John W. Frece of The Sun's Annapolis Bureau contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- The battle over congressional districting intensified yesterday after the House of Delegates recessed until Oct. 21 without reaching a compromise with the state Senate over how new district lines should be drawn.

Meanwhile, the Senate prepared to vote on a new compromise plan today that would place Representatives Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, in the same district.

"We need to take a few weeks off so the president and I can sit down. . . . I see no purpose keeping you all around for five or six days," said House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, earlier in the day. His call for a recess was met with one audible groan from the chamber.

"They [members of the House] should be in their seats and they should be voting," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said. "Running never solved anything."

The House recessed one day after approving, 89-13, its own redistricting plan that would place Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, in a district with Mr. McMillen.

On Wednesday, the Senate had backed another plan by a 33-13 vote that would place Mrs. Bentley and Mr. Gilchrest in the same district.

The Senate's new compromise measure, proposed by Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, passed the chamber's redistricting committee 9-5 yesterday and is expected to be taken up by the full Senate today. Backers expect it to pass by a comfortable margin. Twenty-nine votes are needed for passage.

Besides the proposed McMillen-Gilchrest match -- which would include most of Anne Arundel and nearly all of the Eastern Shore in one district -- the measure would divide Baltimore County into three districts, rather than five as in both the House and Senate versions passed Wednesday. Baltimore County lawmakers support fewer districts for their county, and the compromise plan now before the Senate would place Mrs. Bentley in a district that would take in parts of Harford and Cecil counties as well as part of Baltimore County.

But the prospect of splitting Cecil County from the Eastern Shore drew stinging attacks from Shore lawmakers. Mr. Mitchell has also strenuously opposed such a move.

The House speaker continued to voice support for his plan. "We didn't have the opportunity to know what the Senate was passing out," he said of the proposed compromise.

Asked why not wait another day until he saw the compromise, he said, "It's tough to keep all these people and to sell any compromise other than the one we sent over [the House bill]. It's time for the Senate to look at our compromise."

When it returns Oct. 21, the legislature will have only until Oct. 24 to finish its work, since the 30 days of the special session will expire Oct. 25. Some legislators were suggesting the possibility that a continued deadlock would force a federal court to draw the state's new congressional districts.

"The speaker and the president currently are miles and miles apart," said House Majority Leader D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

"The speaker is of the opinion there is just no productivity in sticking around. Hotel rooms don't come cheap."

House members were divided over the wisdom of recessing without a compromise.

"We need a period of calm consideration," said Delegate Nancy K. Kopp, D-Montgomery. "People [legislators] have lives to live. They have jobs. And we'll save the taxpayers some money."

"It doesn't play to our benefit to adjourn," said Delegate Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, D-Baltimore. "We should make every reasonable effort to reach a compromise, to draw fair lines."

Both plans include a majority-black district in the Washington suburbs and a "safe seat" for Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th. The new congressional map will last a decade.

House Speaker Mitchell and other Eastern Shore lawmakers strongly advocate keeping the Shore intact. They fear that by combining it with another more populous area they will lose their political voice.

"I can't condone that. I'm not about to commit political suicide," said Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Cecil, a member of the redistricting committee who voted against yesterday's new proposed compromise measure.

"The governor of the state ofMaryland referred to us on the Shore as an 'outhouse.' If you pass this bill, you're going to make the Eastern Shore an outhouse," said Sen. Frederick C. Malkus, D-Dorchester.

And the Eastern Shore senator warned Senate President Miller, "You're going to be responsible for this."

"I'm vigorously opposed to this particular plan," Mr. Miller said, but he called it "a start" and said it offered better treatment to Baltimore County, giving Mrs. Bentley her own district.

The strongly partisan Mr. Miller had advocated attempts to link ,, Republicans Bentley and Gilchrest together. But yesterday he said he was not opposed to pairing Mr. Gilchrest and Mr. McMillen in order to forge a plan that could gain greater acceptance.

A "cross-bay" district has been proposed before for Mr. McMillen, notably by his fellow congressmen. He has rejected it, fearing many of the voters who would be added to his district tend to vote Republican.

But those forging the compromise say they will add some heavily Democratic areas in northern Anne Arundel County to make that plan more acceptable to the congressman.

Today in Annapolis

10 a.m.: Senate convenes, Senate chamber.

House of Delegates has recessed until 11 a.m. Oct. 21.

This is the third day of the special legislative session o congressional redistricting.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.