Ecker Promises To Take Action On Redistricting Bill

November 10, 1991|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said last week he will not follow the example of his predecessor and ignore the County Council's redistricting bill.

"I will either sign the bill or veto it," Ecker said. "I won't just let it sit there." However, he said he "will probablytake the full 10 days" to do it.

Ecker has until Nov. 18 to decide.

When district lines were first drawn in 1986, then-County Executive J. Hugh Nichols returned thebill unsigned, saying it would"set a dangerous precedent" for him tosign it.

The reason for leaving it unsigned, Nichols said, is that the charter amendment requiring the council to create districts does not mention a role for the executive.

Ecker believes the executive does have a role, however, and has said he will use his veto poweragainst anything he doesn't like.

He said Thursday he has yet to review the map the council approved 3-2 along party lines last week in a contentious legislative session.

If Ecker vetoes the bill, council Democrats will probably remove

from the table a resolution authorizing the new district lines and then approve it. After a surprise motion by Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, the council voted unanimously last week to table the redistricting resolution.

Resolutions, unlike bills, cannot be vetoed or overturned in a voter referendum. The 1986 council, fearing that the district lines might be overturned in a referendum, passed a districting resolution identical to a districting bill it had enacted a month earlier.

Ecker earlier this year asked county solicitor Barbara Cook to clarify his veto role. Cook said redistricting should be done by bill and that Ecker can veto it.

The council voted, 3-2, along party lines to spend up to $25,000 to hire a prominent Baltimore attorney, former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, and get his opinion. Civiletti said a resolution islegally defensible because the section of the charter dealing with redistricting does not mention the executive in "any way, shape, or form."

"I am anticipating that the county executive is going to be thinking about peace-making and what's good for the county," Pendergrass said. "I believe he will support the districting bill."

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