Taylor seeks a special session

The Political Game

Assembly: The House speaker wants a separate session to deal with congressional redistricting, but he will likely run into opposition from Senate President Miller.

January 09, 2001|By Michael Dresser and Thomas W. Waldron | Michael Dresser and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

IF HOUSE SPEAKER Casper R. Taylor Jr. gets his way, the General Assembly session that starts tomorrow won't be the only one this year.

The speaker is promoting the idea of calling a special session in the fall to deal with congressional redistricting for the 2002 election.

Congressional redistricting will be a contentious issue because the state's dominant Democrats are determined to pick up at least one House seat in a state delegation that is now split between the parties, 4-4.

Taylor, a Cumberland Democrat, said that by calling a special session, the Assembly could avoid having to deal with the politically charged matter during its regular 90-day session next year, when it will also have to deal with the even more touchy issue of redrawing state legislative districts.

"It takes it away from potentially interfering with the orderly flow of a regular session," Taylor said. He noted that Maryland held a special session in 1991, the last time the state redrew congressional district lines.

The circumstances were different, however, because 1992 was a presidential election year, putting the primary in March. In 2002, the primary will not take place until September, giving legislators time to deal with the issue during their regular session if they choose.

The 1991 special session turned into a monthlong affair because of differences between then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer and legislative leaders.

The exercise was unpopular with many rank-and-file members because it interfered with their regular jobs while they played a long game of hurry-up-and-wait.

The legislature's experience two decades ago could lend support to Taylor's idea, however. That year the Assembly took up the issue in its regular 90-day session and didn't pass a congressional redistricting plan until the final days.

Taylor said he thought a special session in the fall could go much more quickly than in 1991 because of better relations between the governor and presiding officers.

He predicted that he, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller could hammer out an agreement that members of both chambers could agree to quickly.

But Miller and Taylor are barely speaking these days - thanks largely to a dispute over the size of an addition Taylor wants for the cramped House office building.

And Miller says he is firmly opposed to a special session. "The House can meet by itself," Miller said last week.

For the moment, Miller seems more focused on legislative redistricting. He said he will appoint a 13-member committee of senators - Democrats and Republicans - to begin work on a legislative map. The group will be co-chaired by two veteran Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Clarence W. Blount of Baltimore and Sen. Ida G. Ruben of Montgomery County.

Townsend's vacation could give political boost

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is winding up a family vacation that could also yield political dividends as she looks toward the 2002 gubernatorial race.

Townsend spent the past two weeks in Israel, a traditional stop for Democratic politicians seeking to appeal to Jewish voters.

The lieutenant governor's vacation mixed tours of the Holy Land with briefings from top Israeli officials. She wound up her trip by delivering the first Robert F. Kennedy Memorial lecture at Tel Aviv University.

Townsend's father was slain in 1968 by a Palestinian nationalist who was angry at his support for Israel.

The trip earned Townsend a highly favorable Baltimore Jewish Times article in which she was praised for going ahead with her visit despite persistent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators.

Townsend was quoted as saying how "meaningful" it was to her "to show my solidarity with the citizens of Israel at this time."

You don't get that kind of ink from two weeks in Aruba.

Splurge on Sunday with tax-cut savings

It doesn't take much to get conservatives in the state to demand a tax cut. But you didn't hear much celebrating last week when they actually got one.

As of Jan. 1, income taxes paid by the average Marylander went down 2 percent, thanks to a cut in the basic tax rate and an increase in the exemptions taxpayers claim.

This is the fourth-year installment of the 10 percent, five-year tax cut passed by the legislature in 1997. For most people, this year's savings will at least cover the cost of a pizza and a case of beer for Sunday's Ravens game.

So enjoy.

Governor, wife appear at same public event

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his estranged wife, Frances Hughes Glendening, appeared at the same public event for the first time in months last night, but there were no signs of a thaw in their frosty relationship.

The event that brought the governor and his wife into the same room was an Annapolis reception celebrating the installation of a historic Tiffany glass dome in the Senate's new Thomas V. Mike Miller Office Building.

Frances Glendening, separated from the governor since summer, arrived first and began schmoozing with dignitaries in the hallway. When the governor entered the reception room, the two conspicuously avoided each other.

During the presentation, Mrs. Glendening sat in the front row next to Senate President Miller and his wife.

The governor sat in the second row almost directly behind her, next to Baltimore Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman.

After the governor spoke, without acknowledging her presence, Mrs. Glendening clapped tepidly. On his way out the door, the governor stopped briefly in front of Mrs. Glendening and said something quietly to her.

She acknowledged it, and he departed for a speaking engagement.

Sun staff writer Sarah Koenig contributed to this article.

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