ANNAPOLIS -- State lawmakers will reconvene today in an effort to break a deadlock over congressional redistricting, as word of a possible compromise began to emerge.
House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, said yesterday that he had offered an alternative proposal to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, that "concerns Cecil County," the northeast Maryland subdivision whose placement on the redistricting map has stalled the process.
The House speaker declined to offer any further details, referring the matter to Mr. Miller, who declined comment.
Asked if he would appoint House conferees today to work out a compromise with the Senate, Mr. Mitchell said, "I don't know. It depends what [Mr. Miller's] response back to me is."
Both chambers have passed redistricting plans that would pair Representatives Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, and Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Md.-1st, in the same district. But the two chambers disagree over what to do with Cecil County.
The Senate plan would split Cecil County from the rest of the Eastern Shore to give Mr. McMillen's Anne Arundel County the bulk of the district and presumably an edge in the contest. The House plan would leave Cecil County as part of the nine-county Eastern Shore, which would give that region the ability to elect one of its own. Mr. Gilchrest lives in Kent County on the Shore.
One House lawmaker said that there is an offer from Mr. Mitchell to split Cecil County below the Elk River, leaving that portion in the Shore district. The northern part of the county would be added to a district represented by Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2nd, that also would include Harford County and portions of Baltimore County.
That division of Cecil would allow Mr. McMillen to pick up another 20,000 to 30,000 residents in Anne Arundel County in his new district, although the Shore would likely continue to be the dominant portion of the district.
The strongly partisan Mr. Miller has termed the House-passed measure "unfair" to Mr. McMillen and has been working hard to add more Democratic areas for the congressman in Anne Arundel.
But Mr. Mitchell has insisted that his native Eastern Shore remain intact, as have other Shore lawmakers, who say that they should have the greatest percentage of the district's population to insure that they can retain a representative from that region.