Democrats and Republicans alike asked a five-member commission to not cross jurisdictional lines when it redraws state legislative districts later this year.
Members of both parties argued during a hearing of the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee in Randallstown Monday that the often partisan process of redrawing legislative districts should not be used to create additional shared districts between Baltimore County and neighboring jurisdictions.
The commission is charged with making recommendations on the decennial redrawing of state legislative and congressional districts. The hearing at the Randallstown Community Center was the last of 12 public hearings.
Some at the hearing Tuesday said population growth in the county should not be used to help protect the city's six existing legislative districts.
Proponents of multi-jurisdictional legislative districts said regional concerns, not artificially enhancing the city's political power, should be considered.
A court decision in 2002 erased all the districts the city and county shared.
“A decade later, I can only testify that the need for regional thinking has only increased with the passage of time,” said Melvin Freeman, executive director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association.
But others argued that changes in population should mean changes in representation.
Ertel urged the commission to add another full legislative district to the five already contained inside Baltimore County's borders.
“They aren’t conflicted with the interests of other jurisdictions,” Brassil said.
“A majority of its districts should solely represent the county’s interests,” Brassil said.
In northern Baltimore County, Wade Kach, a Republican, represents a single-member district that includes parts of Cockeysville and is part of a larger Senate district of which two-thirds is made up of Carroll County.
“For the most part, our communities of our county fall easily within the mathematical boundaries of creating districts that are compact, contiguous, and sharing similar problems, which would lead to excellent representation for constituency,” Cavey said.
The county, at more than 805,000 in population, has added about 50,000 people since the districts were redrawn nearly a decade ago.
The new census figures would suggest that the county could support six full districts with some population falling into a seventh that crosses into another neighboring jurisdiction.
“The status quo is that Baltimore County is breached by three districts that are represented by people of other counties,” Sen. Delores Kelley said. “And they vote in our county delegations. It is very difficult to work with representatives of other counties.”
Kelley urged for a reduction in the number of shared districts.
“Certainly (legislative districts) should cross the line but three is too many,” Kelley said.
Kelley urged the committee consider only one shared district for the county keeping the one currently shared with Howard County.
Last week, Kelley argued against delaying a vote of a task force on the county school board so that Republican Sen. J.B. Jennings might be able to attend and vote. for living in Harford County.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat, has lobbied state officials this year on the issue and asked that no districts cross into Baltimore City or into Harford County. The one exception appears to be the 12th District that includes a portion of Howard County, according to a source close to the county executive who spoke on background.
Some expressed concern that population gains in the county might be used to offset losses in the city and allow the city to retain more Senate districts than the census figures would allow.
Not everyone sees crossing into the city as a bad thing.
Freeman, of the Citizens Planning and Housing Commission, urged the panel to consider regional issues when drawing districts.
“Where the lines stop, the problems don’t,” Freeman said.
Prior to 2002, the county and city shared five state legislative districts.
Freeman said “district overlap” has led to mutually beneficial initiatives.
“Representatives understand the clearer truth that no jurisdiction is an island,” Freeman said. “Public school issues that are left to fester soon become county school problems. Furthermore, money used to fight crime in the city ultimately strengthens the security of the county.”
In 2002, Gov. Parris Glendening redrew the maps and extended several Baltimore County legislative districts into the city and other surrounding counties.
The plan was ultimately challenged in court. The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, threw out the plan and redrew the maps.
In its opinion, the court said that preference should be given to drawing whole legislative districts inside jurisdictions when there is the population to support it.
The commission is expected to complete its work on recommendations for redrawing the state’s eight congressional districts in time for a special session of the General Assembly scheduled for the week of Oct. 17.
The legislature will take up recommendations on redrawing legislative districts during the 2012 session which begins in January.