Mitchell agrees to bring House back into session


ANNAPOLIS -- House leaders, worried that their recess from a special session could create legal problems and jeopardize a congressional redistricting plan, decided last night to return to work on Thursday.

Frustrated with the Senate's inability to agree on a plan, the House recessed last Thursday after only three days and planned to reconvene Oct. 21. But the attorney general questioned whether such a recess was legal, so House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, agreed last night to bring his troops back to Annapolis.

Mr. Mitchell could not be reached for comment, but his legislative assistant, Susanne Brogan, said the House was not returning because any deal had been struck with the Senate over the competing plans to redraw the boundaries of the state's eight congressional districts.

Mr. Mitchell has been adamantly opposed to the Senate plan because it removes Cecil County from the rest of the Eastern Shore's 1st Congressional District. The speaker's primary objective in redistricting has been to keep the entire Eastern Shore intact.

Because the House had recessed rather than adjourned, Mr. Mitchell believed that the constitutional provision that one house may not adjourn for more than three days without consent of the other house was not violated.

But because only a court can decide such a dispute, he decided to summon the House back into session rather than run the risk that the issue could jeopardize whatever final plan is drawn, Ms. Brogan said.

Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, who chairs a special redistricting committee in the Senate, said, "I'm delighted."

He called the change "a signal of progress" and said he hoped to meet soon with House members to discuss a possible compromise.

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