Democrats in Anne Arundel County's House delegation voted yesterday to grant one vote each to three delegates who represent only a sliver of the county - a rule change that Republican lawmakers opposed because it seals Democratic control of the legislative agenda for another four years.
Republicans launched an attack last week to expose what they called an "immoral" attempt by Democrats to subvert the will of voters who ousted two Democratic state delegates and a Democratic state senator in last month's election.
GOP leaders hinted that the rule change, affecting delegates whose districts lie mostly in Prince George's County, may cost Anne Arundel when it comes time to apportion money for school and road projects. They said Republicans "across the state" were talking about seeking "retribution."
But Democrats - some of whom lashed back at Republicans with harsh words at the morning meeting - said they were doing what was best for residents, not for their party.
Yesterday's vote gives the Democrats an 8-7 majority in the delegation. Had the previous rule been in effect, it would have restricted nonresident legislators to one collective vote - and given Republicans the majority.
"In all honesty, this is not a political move, but a move to enfranchise these people into our county," said current delegation Chairwoman Mary Ann Love, a Democrat from Glen Burnie who has been chastised by GOP colleagues for calling the meeting. The delegation usually doesn't meet until closer to the start of annual legislative session, which will begin Jan. 8.
With their vote yesterday, Democratic lawmakers altered a rule adopted by the full delegation in April. Redistricting had moved some Arundel precincts into Prince George's and Howard counties. To guard against the influence of outsiders, members voted unanimously to restrict the out-of-county legislators to one collective vote.
Democrats changed their mind, saying court-ordered changes to the map, which moved all but a small piece of the county back into local districts, wiped away concern that the delegation might be monopolized by out-of-county interests. They said they wanted to be fair to Prince George's lawmakers, who have promised to protect Arundel residents.
Republicans said the change was an attempt to override the voters, who ousted Democratic Dels. Mary M. Rosso and C. Richard D'Amato and Democratic Sen. Robert R. Neall.