New districts expected to become law Friday Baltimore Co. lawmakers expected to sue over Schaefer's redistricting.

February 19, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- Baltimore County lawmakers aren't happy about it, but the new legislative districts proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer are expected to become law by Friday's constitutional deadline.

The General Assembly's two presiding officers said that with no consensus on changes to the governor's plan, it would be a waste of time to even bring proposals onto the floor of the House of Delegates or the Senate.

"It's my feeling there won't be that much accomplished by bringing something to the floor," said House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent. "People will say now we're down here worrying about where we'll be running in the next election while there are lots bigger problems in the state."

Even so, Baltimore County delegates, who don't relish sharing districts with Baltimore City under the governor's proposal, plan an unusual challenge to Mr. Mitchell's authority by petitioning their own redistricting plan to the floor later this week.

"We're entitled to debate it," said Del. E. Farrell Maddox, chairman of the Baltimore County House delegation. "I think the delegates would like to make the point that they're not totally happy with the governor's plan."

Meanwhile, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has abandoned his plans to have the Senate vote on the governor's plan, or any others, knowing that the House of Delegates won't take up the issue.

"As a lawyer, a citizen and a taxpayer, I abhor a futile gesture," said Mr. Miller, D-Prince George's. "The Senate could pass a redistricting bill. It would not be pretty. But to what avail?"

The Baltimore County plan, if it appears on the House floor, "has nowhere near enough votes" to pass, according to Majority Leader D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington.

No matter what happens in the State House, Baltimore County officials are expected to go to court to challenge the governor's plan on the grounds that it does not meet the federal one-person, one-vote requirements.

Plenty of lawmakers would like to tinker with the plan. And that would lead to regional bickering, Mr. Poole said. "Why take the time to get people emotional, pit people against each other?" Mr. Poole asked.

After each census, the Maryland Constitution requires the governor to submit a legislative redistricting plan at the beginning of the 90-day session.

If the legislature cannot agree on changes to the plan by the session's 45th day, which is Friday, the governor's plan becomes law.

Baltimore County legislators have complained the loudest about the governor's plan, which has the county sharing five districts with Baltimore. County lawmakers say shared districts may force the county to confront more of the city's problems.

An alternative proposed by Baltimore County would create only one overlapping city-county district. The plan also would cede an eighth legislative district from the city-county region to Montgomery and Howard counties.

Voting on such a proposal "would get nasty," Mr. Miller said. "The elected representatives would have to choose between Baltimore City and Montgomery County."

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