Lawmakers from Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore are unhappy, but the legislature appears to be heading toward settlement of a weeklong standoff over congressional redistricting.
The state Senate yesterday passed a new district plan for the state's eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
And the House of Delegates, after storming testily out of Annapolis last week, will return Thursday to look for a compromise.
The new Senate plan upset lawmakers at both ends of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It splits Anne Arundel County among three congressional districts and lops off Cecil County from the district that would represent the rest of the Eastern Shore.
Legislators from both areas fear their influence in Washington will disappear if they are spread among more than one representative.
"Aren't we small enough?" asked Sen. Walter M. Baker, D-Eastern Shore. "Why do you have to cut us up some more?"
The issue that has kept the House and Senate apart remains: Which two members of Congress will be forced to run in the same district?
Although Maryland retained its eight House seats after the 1990 census, legislators felt compelled to draw a new district to accommodate the growing black population in Prince George's County. With no incumbent in that district, the eight current representatives must squeeze into seven.
The state Senate, in its newly passed plan, puts Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, who lives in Anne Arundel County, in the same district with Eastern Shore Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st.
The House plan, passed last week, would force McMillen to run against Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd, in a district that includes Anne Arundel and eastern Baltimore County. Many politicians think that would add up to an easy Bentley victory.
While the main attention has been on choosing which two representatives will have to "double up" in one district, legislators have scrambled in Annapolis to prevent their counties from being carved up.
After Baltimore County legislators complained last week that their county was being sliced into too many pieces, senators crafted a revised plan that lumps a big chunk of Baltimore County into one district. It includes Bentley's home and takes in Harford and Cecil Counties as well. While Baltimore County legislators were satisfied with the plan, Anne Arundel senators complained that Anne Arundel County was being put in three districts, including one that is combined with most of the Eastern Shore.
Under the new Senate plan, Baltimore would be split between two districts. One, which is home to Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, would be a predominately black district that extends from central Baltimore westward into part of Baltimore County. The other district, home to Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, would loop around the north, east and south sides of the city, then head through northern Anne Arundel County and into a small part of eastern Howard County.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said he hopes House-Senate differences can be worked out in a conference committee.