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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Lawmakers quiet as Hogan panel seizes initiative in redrawing districts

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks in March about gerrymandering. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks in March 2017 about gerrymandering. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

A forthcoming proposal to redraw one Maryland congressional district may be enough to satisfy a court order even if the legislature doesn’t act on it, according to a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan.

Last week Hogan issued an executive order creating a nine-member emergency commission tasked with redrawing the 6th Congressional District. But the governor’s interpretation of the federal court order also leaves open the door to others who may want a hand in reshaping the district before an overall redistricting effort after the 2020 census.

“The court order says that the state must propose a map with a redrawn 6th District,” said Amelia Chassé, a spokeswoman for the governor. “It doesn’t say ‘passed by the legislature.’ We believe the timeline in the executive order would satisfy the court order.”

Some Democrats in the legislature agree, privately noting that the federal order is silent on who should draw the maps or what the approval process should be. That interpretation leaves the door open for a separate legislative plan.

Hogan’s executive order requires the commission to hold public meetings inside the district and then publish a proposed map by March 4 — three days before a court-ordered deadline. Public comment will be taken on the proposed map, and a final version is expected to be delivered to the General Assembly by April 2 — less than a week before the close of the 2019 session.

“We all know that many bills are passed by the legislature in the last week of the session,” said Chassé. “We believe there will be enough time.”

Chassé noted that even though a final version won’t be delivered to the legislature until early April, lawmakers will be able to view the proposal when it is posted for public comment weeks earlier. It is not clear if the legislature is willing to take up any changes proposed by the governor’s panel. In recent years, the Democratic-led General Assembly has refused to vote on Hogan’s proposal to create an independent redistricting commission.

Hogan announced last month that he would re-file that bill in January for the start of the 2019 legislative session.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Busch Tuesday declined to comment on Hogan’s emergency redistricting commission, citing the pending appeal. He referred questions to Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

A spokesman for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. was not immediately available for comment.

Maryland once had an eight-member congressional delegation evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Changes made under Democratic Govs. Parris Glendening and Martin O’Malley changed the balance first to a 6-2 split and later a 7-1 margin.

Currently, 1st District Rep. Andy Harris is the only Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation.

Glendening in recent months has lamented his role in the changes he used to bolster his party’s numbers and has called for redistricting reform.

The state’s current configuration, drawn by O’Malley in 2011, has been the focus of criticism and court challenges.

The three-judge panel in November ordered the state to redraw the 6th District, which includes western Maryland and parts of Montgomery County without significantly altering the seven other congressional districts. The court ordered a map to be produced by March 7. The court raised concerns about the 2011 map that targeted Republicans and other voters who would vote Republican.

The new district removed 66,000 Republican voters while adding 24,000 registered Democrats.

The court later stayed its order until July 1 or when the Supreme Court rules on an appeal by Frosh, whichever comes first. Frosh filed an appeal with the Supreme Court on Monday. It is not yet known when the court will address the request for a review.


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