So who really cares about integrity? Heated redistricting battle spurs a language all its own in Assembly.


Redistricting is so explosive, so sensitive, lawmakers have had to invent a language to deal with it.

Redistrictspeak consists mainly of high-minded words and phrases used to smooth over harsh and often partisan messages.

A key word, oft-used, is "integrity," as in the integrity of the congressional districts legislators can't agree on.

The "I-word" popped up regularly during an hour-long meeting of 15 key senators yesterday.

In one brief stretch, Sen. James C. Simpson, D-Southern Md., used it twice and Sen. John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, three times. Yet, Simpson noted, the map being endorsed by a majority of the senators had little or no integrity.

"It doesn't take a genius to see how it's snaked around to accommodate incumbents," Simpson said.

Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell said the majority's favored plan failed to respect Baltimore County's integrity. His solution? A plan that kept the county more intact but threatened to erase some of the clout -- the integrity, in other words -- of the county's neighbor, Baltimore.

"The city of Baltimore has lost population," said Bromwell, D-Balto. Co. "They should not have the representation in Congress. It's nothing personal."

Members of the House of Delegates also like to say, in public anyway, that the various redistricting plans aren't targeting anyone. Hence, Del. Nancy K. Kopp, explaining the Democratic plan the House adopted yesterday, said it should not be construed as "directed against any of the members of our [congressional] delegation."

"We are interested in and supportive of them all," Kopp, D-Montgomery, said straight-faced.

Fact is, the plan she described would force Rep. Tom McMillen, D-4th, to run against Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, which neither representative believes is particularly supportive.

Kopp's entire speech explaining the plan sounded like a civics lesson about democracy and did not at all mention the infighting. It was redistrictspeak at its best.

"This plan is balanced geographically . . . . It is a plan which is balanced ideologically . . . . It is a fair and well-balanced plan . . . . No one can say it is unfair to one party or another . . . ."

After Kopp spoke, Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey gently pointed out that Republicans don't agree. "This plan falls a little bit short of muster," she said.

Sauerbrey couldn't resist using the "I-word" in describing the Republican plan, which was voted down. "What this proposal does is maintain regional integrity," she said.

"This is not about political careers, it is not a partisan issue," she continued, taking the same tack as Kopp.

In reality, the Republican plan would protect Republicans, as Kopp noted in her rebuttal, again artfully phrased in redistrictspeak: "It does not maintain the viability of all the Congress people, as I see it."

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