The House of Delegates approved a congressional redistricting plan today, despite clear indications the state Senate would reject it.
"We're not accepting it," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-City, chairman of a Senate redistricting committee, after the House approved its plan 98-29.
Pica said Senate leaders were hoping to push the House into a conference committee where a compromise might be forged.
But House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. refused to consider that possibility. "I'm not appointing a conference committee," he said.
Rank-and-file legislators appeared increasingly anxious to settle the redistricting dispute and move on to the state's budget crisis.
Dozens of uniformed State Police, protesting budget-related firings of troopers, poured into the State House today to talk to lawmakers.
Mitchell and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. differ mainly over the future district of Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-1st.
In essence, Miller wants to help out McMillen, a fellow Democrat, while Mitchell, also a Democrat, is more interested in keeping his native Eastern Shore in a single district, regardless of who represents it.
Mitchell's plan, approved by the House today, would combine part of Anne Arundel County with all of the Eastern Shore, lumping McMillen and Gilchrest together in a district made up mostly of Shore residents.
On Monday, the Senate approved a plan that also would pit McMillen against Gilchrest, but in a district that includes a majority of Anne Arundel County residents -- McMillen's current base -- and less of the Eastern Shore, represented by Gilchrest.
Cecil County, under the Senate plan, would be cut off from theEastern Shore and placed in another district, which upsets Mitchell.
McMillen's top aide, Jerry Grant, met yesterday with senators. Though not happy with the Senate plan, McMillen prefers it to the House's version.
"If this plan goes the way it seems to be going, every Democratic district in the state has become tougher," said Grant, who believes both plans assist the three Republican incumbents.
Two of the state's eight incumbent members of Congress are fated to be placed in the same district because Democratic leaders have agreed to create a mainly black district in Prince George's County and fashion a "safe" seat elsewhere for the Prince George's incumbent, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-5th.
McMillen, with the support of Miller and state Democratic Party chairman Nathan Landow, has fought for a plan that would force Gilchrest to run in a district against another Republican, Rep. Helen D. Bentley of the 2nd District.
But Bentley fought back with support from a powerful ally,
Democratic Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and other members of the state congressional delegation.
Gilchrest, meanwhile, believes he can win no matter how the district is drawn. "For us it's a winnable district," said Gilchrest's top aide, Tony Caligiuri.
He said his prediction is based on Gilchrest topping his 1990 vote total on the Eastern Shore and doing slightly better than McMillen's Republican opponent did in 1990 in Anne Arundel County.