ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland General Assembly convenes for a special session Monday to focus on congressional redistricting and overriding vetoes from the 2021 session.
Maryland’s congressional redistricting process will come to a head next week when both chambers of the legislature will consider proposed congressional maps from the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission and the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission.
The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee is scheduled to hold a joint hearing Monday at 12:30 p.m. with the Senate’s Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee. Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, announced the committee members Wednesday; Senate Majority Leader Nancy King, D-Montgomery, will chair the committee.
Gov. Larry Hogan established the citizens commission, which featured balanced political party membership, earlier this year.
That commission submitted a congressional map to Hogan, a Republican, that has very different boundaries from those of the current map, which passed in 2011 following the 2010 U.S. Census.
The legislative commission, which, like the Legislature, had a Democratic majority, recommended a map that would include part of Anne Arundel County in the Eastern Shore’s District 1.
That district is currently the only Maryland congressional seat, out of eight, held by a Republican. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state approximately 2-1.
Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, said he expects support for the maps will be affected by national political divisions and pressure. “I think unfortunately it’s pretty likely that these maps will break down along party lines,” he said.
The state House of Delegates and Senate will need to pass a congressional map, which would then go to Hogan for approval.
Del. Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, said he thinks the citizens commission map is “really a pretty good map.”
“It very accurately reflects populations and regions that have commonality throughout the state,” Buckel said in a phone interview with Capital News Service.
Buckel served on the legislative redistricting commission.
In a news conference Wednesday, Hogan said he’d met with Ferguson and talked about redistricting.
“I think their intent is to continue to do some of the worst gerrymandering in the country, and we’re trying to convince them that that does not make sense,” Hogan said.
While there are disagreements over which state owns the title of most gerrymandered, Maryland’s 2011 map went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices said partisan gerrymandering is not an issue for the federal courts.
Maryland law gives six days while the legislature is in session, excluding Sundays, to approve or veto the maps; if Hogan does not sign or veto a map, it will become law.
Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, said he expects the legislature will stay in session to potentially override a veto of congressional maps.
The joint hearing on Monday is expected to include time for public testimony.
Members of the public can sign up to testify until 6 p.m. on Friday.
Pinsky said he doesn’t know yet how many people will sign up to testify, but he doesn’t expect people who sign up on time will be excluded. He said he does expect there will be time limits placed on testimony.
Veto overrides will be a second focus of the special session; the legislature could vote to override vetoes on upward of 20 bills.
Most of the bills passed with more than the three-fifths of both chambers necessary for an override. One, a bill to repeal the prohibition on using or intending to use drug paraphernalia, passed with one fewer Senate votes than the number needed to override.
Lam said he thinks the vote on the paraphernalia bill could be close.
“You would need all of those votes to hold and maybe even then some,” Lam said.
He said the party is in the process of determining the level of support for veto overrides.
“We don’t bring ones up for votes unless we generally have a sense that the votes are there,” Lam said.
Other possible veto overrides include a bill related to immigration detention and one related to parole eligibility for people sentenced to life in prison.
Buckel called Hogan’s veto reasoning “very intelligent and well-reasoned rationales.”
He also said he sees some of the bills in criminal justice and public safety as “egregious” and “out-of-step.”
Pinsky said there may be a few overrides tabled because the Democratic majority does not have the votes for an override.
“Most of them will be overridden pretty solidly,” Pinsky said. He also said, “we just disagree with the governor on the policy.”
In his Wednesday news conference, Hogan portrayed his vetoes as in line with public opinion, and said he spoke with Ferguson about the possibility of overrides.
“I tried to explain to him they would be making a mistake to go against the overwhelming will of the voters … I’m not sure I convinced him on all of them,” Hogan said.
In addition to redistricting and overrides, the legislature is expected to select a new state treasurer.
Pinsky said the treasurer portion of the special session should be “fairly pro forma.”
The Special Joint Legislative Committee to Select the State Treasurer voted 10-0 to recommend Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s, for the treasurer position.
The special session is scheduled to begin Monday at 10 a.m.