Redistricting resolution hinges on Cecil County

October 04, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- The deadlock continued yesterday between the House and Senate over Maryland's future congressional map as each side stubbornly held onto its own version of a matchup between Representatives Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st.

Both houses will reconvene today in another effort to resolve the issue that has stalled the legislature for two weeks. While some lawmakers say both sides are still talking, others believe the new congressional districts will wind up drawn by a federal court.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said he will ask the House today to appoint conferees to work out differences.

But House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, quickly brushed aside that suggestion. "We'll probably reject a conference committee," he said, explaining that it would be unfair to the entire House to allow a few conferees to resolve the issue.

The sticking point between the two houses is whether Cecil County's 71,000 residents should be split from the Eastern Shore.

The House yesterday passed in a 98-30 vote a redistricting plan that would make Cecil County part of a proposed McMillen-Gilchrest district, in which the Eastern Shore -- Mr. Gilchrest's home turf -- would be the dominant portion. Some 343,000 residents of that district would be located on the Shore and about 254,000 would be from Anne Arundel County.

The plan would achieve the key Mitchell goal: keeping his native Shore intact.

The Senate, after receiving the House plan yesterday, promptly amended it to conform to its own version of a McMillen-Gilchrest matchup. Under that plan, Cecil County would be split from the Shore and added to a proposed district for Representative Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, that would also include Baltimore and Harford counties.

The Senate-passed measure would make Anne Arundel County

the dominant side of the district, an effort to give a political boost to Mr. McMillen, whose current district now includes the entire county.

There was some talk yesterday among senators about dividing Cecil County to grant Mr. McMillen more Democratic voters in Anne Arundel. But House Speaker Pro Tem Nancy K. Kopp, D-Montgomery, said a larger Anne Arundel base for Mr. McMillen could be achieved by other means.

"We're convinced it's not necessary to split the Eastern Shore to do that," she said, adding that the other Democratic congressmen could make shifts to give Mr. McMillen more of his base. In both the House and Senate proposals, part of Anne Arundel County also is split between Representatives Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.-5th, and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd.

The underlying problem over redistricting has been the need for two members to double up to achieve twin legal and political goals: the creation of a majority-black district to satisfy the federal Voting Rights Act and the creation of a safe seat for Mr. Hoyer, an acknowledged congressional leader.

Yesterday, some state lawmakers, pointing to the pressing budget concerns, appeared weary or disgusted over the stalled once-a-decade redistricting process. "I would hope this would be the last go round," said Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore. "If we can do it fine, if we can't, turn it over to the courts."

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