Senate expected to OK new redistricting plan

September 29, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- A compromise redistricting proposal placing Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Representative Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, in the same district is expected to win Senate approval tomorrow as "our best product," a Senate leader said yesterday.

"I think this proposal will begin to pick up steam," said Sen. John tTC A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, chairman of the Senate redistricting committee, who expected the plan to win up to 37 votes -- eight more than needed for passage. "I think it will be difficult for the House of Delegates to ignore this plan."

The legislature has been deadlocked over the once-a-decade redistricting process after approving competing plans last week.

The Senate voted 33-13 for a plan that would place Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, and Mr. Gilchrest in the same district. The House voted 89-13 for a plan that would place Mrs. Bentley in a district with Mr. McMillen and then adjourned until Oct. 21.

Yesterday, the Senate committee recommended the new compromise plan after making minor changes. One change would move Representative Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, out of Howard County and further into Montgomery County. Representative Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, would move into that portion of Howard County on the outskirts of Columbia.

"This is clearly our best product," Mr. Pica said following the meeting.

Despite its support in the Senate, the compromise has created a sticky problem: It splits all of Cecil County from the Eastern Shore and places it in a district drawn for Representative Bentley that includes Harford County and parts of Baltimore County.

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell, Jr., R-Kent, has been adamant that the Shore -- including Cecil County -- remain intact, a view shared by his colleagues on the same side of the bay. Mr. Mitchell became angered and adjourned the House Thursday after delegates began working with the Senate on the compromise plan.

"We're getting screwed here, and you people are enjoying it," said a furious Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr., D-Dorchester, a committee member who voted against the compromise plan. "Cutting the Eastern Shore is serious. It's going to create far-reaching effects."

"We're not splitting the Shore in a way that does violence to the Shore," said Mr. Pica. "In the opinion of many people, [Cecil County] is not part of the Shore."

Mr. Pica said after yesterday's meeting that one possibility would be to gain House support by dividing Cecil County below the Elk River and returning that area to the proposed McMillen-Gilchrest district. But that would require trimming more people from Anne Arundel, which makes up the majority of Mr. McMillen's current district.

One House member doubted Mr. Mitchell would accept the plan even if all of Cecil County went back to the Shore, adding that the House Speaker still strongly supports the plan approved in his chamber last week.

"It's going to be tough to get something through without the speaker's agreement," said the lawmaker, who wished to remain anonymous.

Mr. Mitchell may decide to let the federal court draw the congressional lines, believing the court will treat the Shore better than his fellow politicians, said the legislator.

"The wild card is, what does [Gov. William Donald] Schaefer do?" he added, suggesting that the governor's support might persuade Mr. Mitchell to go along.

The governor, who supported the earlier House plan, could back the compromise plan, one of Mr. Schaefer's aides said this week. The compromise plan achieves one of Mr. Schaefer's prime goals: giving Mrs. Bentley, a supporter of the maritime industry, a district that includes the port of Baltimore.

David Iannucci, an aide to Mr. Schaefer, said it was too early to tell what the governor would do.

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