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Panel starts debate on state redistricting Public response sought on two maps


ANNAPOLIS -- It was an admittedly preliminary action that binds no one to anything, but one that could affect the way Baltimore is represented in the Maryland General Assembly for the next decade.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's five-member Redistricting Advisory Committee yesterday adopted two maps intended to help citizens propose changes to the boundaries that divide the state's 47 legislative districts.

Each map divides the state into four regions in the hope that those interested in the redistricting process will focus specifically on their area of the state.

But in adopting the two maps as guidelines, the committee rejected two other options, one of which would have made the city a region unto itself, thus restricting it to the seven legislative districts its dropping population can support.

The city currently has nine legislative districts, based on 1980 census figures. Each district is represented by one senator and three delegates.

By excluding the option to make the city a separate region, the committee has opened the door for proposals to expand one or more of the city's newly drawn districts into surrounding Baltimore County -- a move that city legislators say is the only way Baltimore can maintain as many as eight legislative districts.

"I don't want any map to preclude the possibility of the city maintaining eight seats in the Senate," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, chairman of the city's Senate delegation and an observer at yesterday's meeting. "Our primary goal is to maintain eight legislative districts."

Benjamin L. Brown, chairman of the advisory panel that includes the presiding officers of the House and Senate, said the maps were intended solely to help the public.

"Without these maps," said House Speaker Pro Tem Nancy K. Kopp, D-Montgomery, "people look at the whole state, and it is difficult to focus. It allows you to look at more comprehensible chunks of the state. It doesn't preclude anything. It is just to assist people."

One of the maps, called Option 1.2B, places Baltimore in a region that includes Baltimore County and Harford County.

The Washington area region includes Montgomery, Howard, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's counties.

The other two regions encompass the remaining counties in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore.

Based on population alone, nearly 16 districts could be carved out of the Baltimore region, and nearly 23 out of the Washington region.

The other map, called Option 1.3, adds Carroll and Anne Arundel counties to the Baltimore region and extends the Washington region northwest to include Frederick and Washington counties.

Population in both the Baltimore and Washington regions, according to that map, could support slightly more than 21 districts each.

Option "1.3 is the way to go. It offers ultimate flexibility idrawing up proposals," said Mrs. Kopp.

Senator Pica said city legislators are already looking at areas of Baltimore County in which the city could expand its districts without losing support for city initiatives.

Two areas being considered are the largely black Liberty Road area west of the city, and the heavily Jewish Pikesville area northwest of thecity, he said.

"Our goal is to capture a constituency that won't divide a city senator's loyalty to the city," he said.

In addition to adopting the maps, the advisory panel adopted legal standards for its development of congressional and

legislative redistricting plans, guidelines for 13 evening public hearings around the state that will begin at June 18 in Salisbury and guidelines for submission of "third party" redistricting plans.

Attempting to comply with state and federal constitutions, laws and legal opinions, the committee set as a goal that the 47 legislative districts will be "substantially equal in population," allowing themselves a plus or minus 5 percent margin of deviation.

For the eight congressional districts, the population division "shall be as equal as practicable to one-eighth of the population" established by the census, according to the legal guidelines.

The congressional plan is to be completed Aug. 27 and presented to a special General Assembly session Sept. 24.

The legislative plan is to be completed by Nov. 26 and presented to the 1992 General Assembly in January.

For information

For information about redistricting or to register to speak at any of the 13 public hearings on redistricting, call (800) 688-7494.

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