While not yet official, all indications point to Oct. 17as the date the governor will convene the Maryland General Assembly for a special legislative session to consider his plan for the re-drawing of the state’s eight Congressional districts.
This action is necessary because our state’s primary election date for the 2012 elections falls on April 3, 2012 – a date that is before the conclusion of the regularly scheduled session of the legislature. We will not address our state legislative districts during the special session.
To share a bit of background on Congressional redistricting: Every 10 years following the Census (most recently completed in 2010), the federal government first undergoes a reapportionment process, where each state is assigned a number of Congressmen according to the state’s population relative to the rest of the country.
Each state also has two U.S. Senators, a number that remains constant regardless of population shifts. In Maryland, we experienced a population growth, but one that was not as substantial as other states, which had the state start with and keep its eight Congressional representatives through reapportionment.
Following the reapportionment process, all of the 50 state legislatures are tasked with the responsibility of drawing the lines for each of the Congressional districts. Federal case law has set a very high population equality standard for districts of Congress, very literally seeking that districts be equal in population, reflecting the principle of “one man, one vote.” Due to this principle and population shifts, leaving lines completely unchanged is not an option.
That said, as I enter this session, my measurement for supporting a map will be the extent to which our 6th legislative district, which is wholly encompassed by the 2nd Congressional district, will continue to have shared representation at the federal level. In other words, I will be looking for a map that does not divide our communities.
The benefits of having this type of cohesion within a Congressional district are substantial. Among other benefits, sharing one district means that there is little confusion about who our representative is, it is easy to speak to our Congressional representative with one voice on both issues facing Congress and during elections, and it best allows federal-state coordination on issues that impact our communities.
I have one other goal of this upcoming session: to stay focused on the purpose of our gathering in the first place. Any discussion about other issues, including increasing revenue of any sort, would be best held during a regular session of the legislature, when the public and other interested parties would have an opportunity to fully weigh in on the issues being considered.
This has been the trend of past special sessions, and I expect that to continue. In 2005, the special session to deal with medical malpractice did only that; the 2006 Special Session about BGE rate hikes focused on that issue, and the 2007 special session on the state’s structural deficit stayed only on that topic.
This year should be no different.