County Council To Enact Redistricting By Bill, Resolution

September 29, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

After receiving conflicting advice on whether to enact new district lines with a resolution or a bill, the County Council decided last week to do it both ways -- which is exactly what the previous council did in 1986 when the lines were drawn.

Still at issue is how great a role the county executive should have in the redistricting process.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker thinks the executive should play a major role. He sought to join the council in redrawing the lines.When he was rebuffed, he produced a redistricting scheme of his own that was adopted by Republicans and aired by the council at a redistricting hearing Sept. 19.

Ecker also said he should be able to vetoany plan he doesn't like. He has indicated he will do exactly that unless a redistricting plan tentatively adopted by the council last week is amended.

Gray said he was surprised that Ecker indicated he plans to veto the bill without waiting until after an Oct. 21 public hearing on the plan. "He has yet to hear the public's position," Graysaid.

J. Hugh Nichols, who was executive when the council lines were drawn in 1986, believed the charter "did not intend any role whatsoever for the executive." He therefore returned the 1986 bill to thecouncil unsigned. Unsigned bills become law after 10 days.

Bills can be vetoed or overturned in a voter referendum. Resolutions cannot. Bills petitioned to referendum are put on hold until the next election. Resolutions take effect immediately.

Earlier this year, Eckerasked county solicitor Barbara Cook to clarify his role. The council, meanwhile, voted 3-2 along party lines to hire former U.S. AttorneyGeneral Benjamin R. Civiletti and get his opinion.

Cook said redistricting should be done by bill, thus giving Ecker a veto. Civilettisaid a resolution is legally defensible since the portion of the charter dealing with districting does not mentioned the executive in "any way, shape, or form."

Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, suggested the council adopt both a bill and a resolution. The council first voted, 4-0, in favor of the bill. Paul Farragut, D-4th was absent.

After the vote on the resolution was tied, 2-2, Gray produced a written proxyfrom Farragut saying Farragut was voting for a resolution.

Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said he was "registering a formal objection" to the vote because in his five years on the council, he has never seen a proxy vote before.

Gray said this was not an official vote, and furthermore, the council has previously accepted proxies for other straw votes in work sessions.

Gray said he believes the resolution will stand if Ecker vetoes the bill.

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