New legislative map becomes law

The balance of legislative power in Maryland tips farther away from Baltimore under the new legislative boundaries that quietly became law Friday.

The city loses two of its 18 delegates and will have to share a senator with Baltimore County under the map, drawn by Gov. Martin O'Malley. It became law Friday, the 45th day of the General Assembly session, because lawmakers, as expected, took no action to change it.


The map adds two majority African-American districts to the 47-member state Senate and creates the state's first majority Hispanic House of Delegates district.

But it irked some black leaders who had hoped for more seats, and it a few Democratic senators who represent radically changed districts angry with their party's leadership.


Democratic leaders acknowledged that the plan has left sore feelings.

"Nobody's really happy coming out of redistricting," O'Malley said. "It involves a lot of shuffling and a lot of shifting, but I think we were able to accomplish a difficult task with a minimal amount of disruption."

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who was on the five-member commission advising O'Malley, concurred. "There are always some people happier than others," Busch said. "Always there are people who are not 100 percent satisfied."

State lawmakers were constitutionally bound to readjust both congressional and state legislative lines to account for changes in population measured by the once-a-decade federal census. The congressional map had to be approved by the General Assembly in time for the April 3 primary, and it was the subject of a special session last fall.

The General Assembly map could wait because it won't be used until the 2014 election. It will also be used in 2018.

But threats of lawsuits are in the air. The Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a group dedicated to increasing the number of majority-black districts, plans to challenge the map on the basis that county lines were not properly respected.

Radamase Cabrera, a spokesman, said the group is "outraged" that the governor pushed a map that "discriminates against black and brown people" by failing to add more African-American districts.

He said black influence in Prince George's County was diluted, and he took issue specifically with the seat held by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, which will sprawl into three counties under the new map.


Cabrera also believes that each state Senate district should be divided into three single-member House districts. Now some of the 47 Senate seats are divided and others have three at-large members.

Another potential litigant is Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who is dismayed by his new district. For the past nine years, he has represented a fairly compact area around Towson. His new district goes from the Baltimore City line all the way north to the Pennsylvania line.

Brochin feels that he was the victim of an effort to stanch the bleeding of representation from Baltimore. He said the city should have lost a full Senate district and that a series of deals were made to keep a sixth senator with at least some piece of Baltimore.

The trickle-down effect from that decision, he said, was to leave him with a majority-Republican district that he'll have a hard time holding in the next election.

Brochin has introduced legislation to create an independent commission to oversee future redistricting, similar to a system used by 15 other states.

He is not hopeful that the bill will pass. "You are asking legislators to potentially hurt themselves," he said. "It is not an easy sell."