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Special session to focus on redistricting, vetoes and the state treasurer

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Rachel Baye/WYPR
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Maryland State House

The General Assembly returns to Annapolis Monday for a special session with the focus on Congressional redistricting, but they’ll take up other issues as well, including a host of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes and appointing a new state treasurer.

There are two maps in play in the Congressional redistricting, one drafted by the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission—the body appointed by Gov. Hogan—and one adopted by the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission, the top four Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and the top two Republicans.

The citizens commission map keeps the First District, the mostly Eastern Shore district represented by Andy Harris, the only Republican in Maryland’s Congressional delegation, intact. And most of the other districts are relatively compact and contiguous.

The advisory commission map cuts off the First District near the top of the bay rather than run it down into Baltimore County as it does now. It takes the district across the Bay Bridge into Anne Arundel County and stretches it almost to the Prince Georges line near Laurel. The Second District goes from Northern Anne Arundel County through Baltimore City and into Baltimore County. And the third starts in a corner of Montgomery County, cuts through Howard and Baltimore counties, Baltimore city and winds up at the Pennsylvania line in Harford County. And it goes on in that vein.

The Republicans are appalled at that map, seeing it as an effort to squeeze more Democrats into Harris’ district to unseat him. Jason Buckel, the House minority leader who was on the commission and voted against the map, says it wasn’t the worst gerrymandering he’s seen, but it was gerrymandering.

“There's an awful lot of district lines there that really don't have anything to do with having compact districts or communities of interest that are contiguous,” he said. They have to do with meeting the needs of the existing members of Congress.”

Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, both of whom sat on the advisory commission, issued a statement saying that map creates “more compact and easily followed” districts and makes some of them more competitive.

In a news conference last week, Hogan called the citizens commission map “the good one,” and the advisory commission map “the bad one that the politicians drew in the back room.”

And Del. Eric Luedtke, the House majority leader who was on the advisory commission, shot back that it’s “a little hard to argue something's happening in the back room when we had 12 public hearings all across the state and took public input to the map.”

In other action, there are a number of bills the governor vetoed that will come up for override votes. Most of them passed with veto-proof majorities. But one that would decriminalize certain drug paraphernalia fell one vote short of veto-proof, which could be a problem to override.

The governor also said he’s sending the tough on crime package he announced a couple weeks ago, but that one’s unlikely to go anywhere until the regular session.

And the lawmakers will have to vote on a new state treasurer. Long-time state treasurer Nancy Kopp has announced her retirement recently and a joint legislative committee has voted to recommend Del. Derek Davis, a Prince Georges Democrat, to replace her.

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