Md. House Committee approves legislative redistricting plan, setting stage for floor debate

Members of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee advanced the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission’s state redistricting plan Tuesday, setting the stage for floor debate. (Screenshot via Zoom)

This content was republished with permission from WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

The House of Delegates could begin floor debate on a state legislative redistricting plan as early as Wednesday morning after a committee advanced that proposal Tuesday.

The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee voted along party lines to advance the proposal at a virtual meeting Tuesday morning.

If the General Assembly keeps up its current pace in moving the legislative redistricting plan along, it could become law later this week. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) can’t veto legislative maps. The plan rapidly advanced through the state Senate last week after election officials urged lawmakers to move quickly as the Feb. 22 candidate filing deadline approaches for the upcoming June primary.

The proposed map was put forward by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, a panel convened by House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City).

Once passed, the map will almost certainly face legal challenges: Doug Mayer, a spokesperson for Fair Maps Maryland, an anti-gerrymandering group with ties to Hogan, said a lawsuit is already being drafted.

Any challenges to the legislative redistricting plan will head straight to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The state’s highest court has original jurisdiction over cases involving legislative districts — and a majority on the bench are Hogan appointees.

The governor has appointed five of the top court’s seven judges, including his former chief legislative officer, Chief Judge Joseph M. Getty. Getty was originally appointed to the court in June 2016, but became the state’s top jurist in September after former Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Getty, 69, will reach the mandatory age of retirement in April.

The Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission aimed to “preserve the cores of existing districts to the extent we could as a way of preserving what we believe are communities of interest that have been created by these districts,” Karl Aro, the chair of that panel and a former head of the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, told lawmakers Tuesday.

The House of Delegates is set to return at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Debate over the maps will likely be similar to the state Senate’s process last week, in which Republicans attempted to swap out the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission’s map with one proposed by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission established by Hogan.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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