Redistricting top agenda item for Maryland lawmakers during special session

Maryland lawmakers head to Annapolis on Monday for a special session, and the top of the agenda is a hearing considering a bill to redraw election maps.

States are required to come up with new electoral maps every 10 years, following the federal census.

The current configuration of Maryland’s congressional map has been criticized as one of the most gerrymandered in the country. A federal judge once described the 3rd District map as looking like a “broken-winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.”

The debate over the plans — one map drawn up by the commission appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and one drawn up by the a legislative commission in the General Assembly — has already began, with Hogan calling the legislative map “deeply undemocratic.”

While the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission appointed by Hogan had three Democrats, three independents and three Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke called the map drawn up by the commission a “Republican map.”

“I think the reality is that the people that Larry Hogan appointed have created a map that would benefit Republicans, so it’s clearly, I think, a Republican map,” Luedtke said.

But Republican Del. Chris Adams, the Maryland House’s minority whip, said Hogan “did his fair mapping” and it was the legislature that came out with very gerrymandered district.

“It carves up Harford, Frederick and Carroll counties,” Adams said.

If the Democratic majority passes the congressional map as drawn up by lawmakers, Adams said he thinks it invites a lawsuit.

“And I don’t know what the Democrats want to have happen because that would yield a result where a judge draws a map and not the legislature,” Adams said.

Lawmakers will also be taking up other issues, including addressing the bills Hogan vetoed by and naming a new state treasurer during the special session.

“There’s a couple of dozen vetoes, and we’ll just have to work through which ones we’ll be taking up,” Democratic state Sen. Craig Zucker said.

Nancy Kopp, who served as treasurer for nearly two decades, announced in October that she will retire by the end of the year. Luedtke said Kopp “has served the state ably for decades.”

Before serving as treasurer, Kopp was a member of the house of delegates for 27 years. Luedtke said appointing Kopp’s successor would be the capstone to the week.

Democratic Del. Dereck E. Davis, from Prince George’s County, is seen as the favorite to take that spot.

“Dereck’s someone that I hold in high regard,” Adams said. He and Davis are both on the Economic Matters Committee.

Adams called Davis “a good listener, a good chairman of a very important committee,” and he added that should Davis get the position, he would sit on the three-member Board of Public Works alongside Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

“I think he has the right credentials, the right temperament and personality” for the job, Adams said.

There’s no sign the omicron variant, just detected in Maryland on Friday, will change the COVID-19 protocols planned for the weeklong special session.

While Zucker said the plexiglass dividers that had been previously installed on the Senate floor have been removed, Luedtke said steps are being taken to make sure everyone — lawmakers, staff and the public — is safe.

“The vast majority of legislators and staff in the complex are not only vaccinated but boosted,” Zucker said. “We’re going to be wearing masks; we’ll be social distancing where we can. I feel pretty confident we’ll be able to get through our special session without any issues.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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