By Len Lazarick
Gov. Larry Hogan plans another push for creating an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative district lines and stop the partisan gerrymandering that has marked the process in recent decades.
“I know the governor is still committed to moving forward,” Hogan legislative officer Matthew Palmer told what was supposed to be the final meeting of the governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission on Friday.
Despite the legislature’s failure to even take committee votes on the plan earlier this year, “talking about this issue is a priority for us,” Palmer said. “This is an issue that is top of mind for [the governor].”
The commission Hogan created last year doesn’t want to drop the fight either. The commission was set to expire Nov. 8, but commission members asked Palmer to request Hogan to extend their charge at least through the 2017 session of the General Assembly that ends in April.
“I’m just concerned that this is going to peter out,” said commission member Michael Goff.
“It takes a chorus of different voices,” said commission co-chair Walter Olson. He urged the commission members to write or speak out in their own voices in favor of the redistricting plan to audiences that they were well placed to reach.
Correcting problems in the bill
The commission met in Annapolis for little more than an hour to correct problems in its original proposal, SB380, identified by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe in a letter to Sen. Joan Carter Conway, chair of the committee reviewing the legislation and a member of the commission.
Conway did not attend Friday’s meeting, and she had not supported the commission proposal.
The basic problem with the proposal is the staunch opposition of the Democratic majority to changing the current system — not the tinkering with details of commission plan that they fixed on Friday, like the number of delegates in a district, who represents the redistricting plan in court, and what budget an independent commission would have.
“The work of the commission is great,” said Sen. Steve Waugh, R-St. Mary’s, who participated in the meeting by phone. “It basically has zero chance of passing the legislature.”
“Either we have to go through a massive marketing push,” or put together a less ambitious plan. Otherwise, “it will probably wind up in the exact same posture” as this year.
“We need to be very pragmatic about what our backup plan is,” Waugh said.
Some commission members believe that if Hogan is reelected in 2018, the legislature would be a lot more open to an independent commission, rather than leaving their district lines in the hands of a Republican governor. Under current law, the governor would propose all changes in district lines after the 2020 Census.
Here is MarylandReporter.com’s past coverage of the work of the commission.
Reforming the way congressional and legislative districts are carved up in Maryland may have been declared dead on arrival by Democratic leaders, but the Hogan administration and a few progressive Democratic legislators are keeping the issue alive at hearings this week. The co-chairs of the governor’s redistricting commission presented their proposal for a new commission completely independent of politicians to the House Rules Committee. Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, is proposing his own version of an independent commission to be made up of the nonpartisan legislative staff.
To some politicians and pundits, the governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission is a waste of time. Certainly covering its hearings and deliberations as much as MarylandReporter.com has done is seen as a huge waste of time and space. Len Lazarick writes that propositions that face uphill fights often take years to pass. It is part of the process of educating the legislators and their constituents, changing minds and influencing public opinion.
The governor’s Redistricting Reform Commission wrapped up its final report Tuesday calling for an independent, bipartisan commission of nine people to draw congressional and legislative district lines, with no politicians involved. All but two Democratic legislators on the 11-member reform group voted for the final report setting up the kind of independent commission Gov. Larry Hogan had called for.
The Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission met Tuesday to craft recommendations for ways to fix gerrymandering in Maryland, focusing on establishing an independent group to redistrict both congressional and legislative districts. The commission hashed out intricate rules to limit partisan influence and ensure the independence of the new panel.
While her colleagues debated how they might come up with an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission — as the governor instructed them to do — the highest ranking legislator among them urged them to propose something lawmakers might actually pass: Rational standards for compact and contiguous congressional districts. “Don’t you want to come out of this with something?” asked Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Senate committee that would likely handle any legislation the commission might recommend. “We want something that works.”
Gov. Larry Hogan’s Redistricting Reform Commission wrapped up its fifth and final regional hearing Tuesday night in Laurel with what has become the typical list of witnesses advocating for an independent commission to cure Maryland’s partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts. Republican legislators and citizens outnumbered Democrats and African American Democrats complained of underrepresentation. But in a break from previous hearings, a smattering of Democrats opposed changes that unilaterally weaken their party while larger Republican-controlled states continued their gerrymandering ways, disempowering Democrats.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s 11-member Redistricting Reform Commission, created on Aug. 6 by executive order, met for first time near the State House Thursday where they outlined their first steps to reform the process of drawing Maryland’s congressional and legislative district lines. They have less than 10 weeks to finish their work and make recommendations to the governor and legislature.