Flanagan claims Democratic backlash

November 16, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Just days after the election, the Republican chairman of Howard County's General Assembly delegation says he and a colleague have felt Democratic backlash against GOP gains in the legislature.

The Democrat-dominated Montgomery County delegation voted last week to exclude Howard County delegation Chairman Robert L. Flanagan and Del. Robert H. Kittleman from voting on Montgomery County bills during delegation meetings.

Both of the two Republicans live in Howard and each represents a small portion of Montgomery County, in addition to Ellicott City and western Howard. County delegations vote on whether to approve or reject bills that apply to their home counties. Once a delegation approves a local bill, it often passes the legislature as a matter of courtesy.

Mr. Flanagan said the Montgomery delegation's decision was "absolutely" the result of last week's election, in which Republicans increased their numbers from 25 to 40 in the 141-member House of Delegates and from four to eight in Montgomery's 24-member House contingent.

"Democrats in the [Montgomery] delegation overreacted to increases of Republicans and decided they'd be happier with a couple less," said Mr. Flanagan.

But Del. Leon G. Billings, chairman of the Montgomery delegation's Democratic Caucus, said the decision "has nothing to do with partisan politics."

The Howard delegates were excluded simply because they represent a much smaller portion of Montgomery County than do the other 22 Montgomery delegates, he said.

"Delegate Flanagan finds partisanship behind rocks where there aren't any rocks, let alone any partisanship," Mr. Billings said. "This election made Maryland politics much more partisan than ever before."

Letting the two Howard Republicans vote on Montgomery matters would unfairly "dilute" the votes of Montgomery's 22 other members, Mr. Billings said, adding that he first raised the issue long before the election.

Delegates Flanagan and Kittleman were re-elected in District 14B for third and fourth terms, respectively, and each represents about 5,400 Montgomery residents and 70,000 Howard residents.

The Montgomery delegation typically considers legislation involving planning and zoning, liquor licensing, sanitation, collective bargaining and minority contracting. The delegation voted 16-to-8 -- strictly along party lines -- to exclude the Howard Republicans from voting on Montgomery matters.

Mr. Flanagan said the Montgomery delegation's decision establishes

a new standard that he expects will not stand.

"It's been a uniform practice around the state that any delegate who represents any part of a county is a member of that delegation and votes on all local bills," he said.

"Ultimately, the rules will be determined by the House as a body. The delegation has no authority to exclude us."

Mr. Billings argued that law is on the Montgomery delegation's side and that House leaders should not meddle in "local delegation rule-making."

"[Flanagan's and Kittleman's] participation is, in my view, unconstitutional," Mr. Billings said, citing U.S. Supreme Court decisions on equal representation and voting rights.

The Republican-dominated 11-member Howard delegation includes two new delegates -- Democrat James E. Malone Jr. and Republican Donald E. Murphy -- who live in Baltimore County and represent a district composed of a majority of Baltimore County residents.

Mr. Malone, whose district also includes Elkridge, said he has received information in the mail on Howard County bills and expects to be involved in voting on them.

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