Hogan renews call for redistricting reform in Maryland

Gov. Larry Hogan says "the time is now" to end gerrymandering. Will the Maryland legislature agree?

Gov. Larry Hogan renewed his call for redistricting reform Friday, saying "the time is now" to end gerrymandering in Maryland.

The Republican governor's exhortation came the same day that House of Delegates and Senate committees held hearings on the governor's legislation that would hand the task of drawing congressional and legislative district lines to an independent commission.

Hogan proposed a similar measure last year only to see them go nowhere in the Democrat-dominated General Assembly. The governor urged lawmakers to bring his proposal to up-or-down votes in the Senate and House rather than holding the bill in committee, as they've done in previous years.

Hogan noted that Maryland's House of Representatives delegation had a 4-4 party split within recent memory but has been 7-1 Democratic majority since the majority party carved up the map after the 2010 census.

The governor acknowledged that Republicans in other states had gerrymandered their own districts and said he opposed the practice. But he dismissed the idea, advanced in rival legislation, to link redistricting reform to matching action in Virginia, where Republicans dominate the legislature.

He called that proposal "a way of saying it's not going to happen."

"Just because others do not have the political will or courage to do the right thing, that should not deter from taking action right here in Maryland," Hogan said. "The status quo is no longer good enough."

Democrats have expressed reluctance to act on redistricting in the absence of a national solution. They contend the gerrymandering in Maryland has only minimally offset the advantages gained by Republicans in states where they draw the district lines.

Hogan mentioned that former Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley had recently acknowledged that Maryland's redistricting map had been gerrymandered. O'Malley also came out in favor of national reform.

"This isn't a fight between the right and the left. This is a fight between right and wrong," Hogan said.

Except for the reference to O'Malley, Hogan's arguments for changing the redistricting process were much the same as they were during his previous two legislative sessions. So far, the Democratic leadership has given little indication they plan to handle the issue any differently this year.

Neither Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller nor House Speaker Michael E. Busch were immediately available to comment.

mdresser@baltsun.com

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