For the second year in a row, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly rejected Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's plan to take away lawmakers' power to draw congressional districts.
Without discussion, a key House committee on Monday killed Hogan's proposal to cede that authority — and the less controversial power to General Assembly district boundaries — to a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
The 18-5 party-line vote by the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee effectively erases any hope the governor's redistricting plan will advance this year. Hogan has pressed the legislature to take an up-or-down vote on his plan rather than letting it languish without one.
A few hours later, a Senate committee advanced a competing proposal to create new redistricting method, provided that five other states also signed onto the regional compact.
Hogan spokeswoman Hannah Marr said the governor would continue to advocate for redistricting reform.
"Marylanders should be choosing their elected representatives, not the other way around," she said.
Also on Monday, a deputy attorney general wrote in a letter to a Senate lawmaker that portions of Hogan's redistricting proposal appeared to be unconstitutional because of ways it curtailed future votes by the General Assembly.
Maryland's congressional boundaries have been widely criticized as gerrymandered to benefit Democrats, which outnumber Republicans in state by a 2-to-1 margin. Democrats hold seven of the state's eight congressional districts and both Senate seats.
Though the maps have been upheld as legal in three instances, one judge described the shape of the 3rd Congressional District as "a broken-winged pterodactyl, laying prostrate across the center of the state."
A federal court is weighing whether the maps, enacted in 2011, violate the First Amendment rights of Republicans who claim to be marginalized. Voters also upheld the maps during a 2012 referendum.
Democratic leaders have rebuffed Hogan's attempt to change the way the state draws congressional boundaries, calling for instead a national shift where states dominated by Republicans and Democrats each changed how they drew boundaries. They have likened changing Maryland's system alone to unilateral disarmament.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch issued a joint statement promising to pass what they called the Mid-Atlantic Regional Compact. If New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina all pass the same deal, the state's would each draw congressional districts using an independent commission.
The next redistricting process will take place after the 2020 census. Under the current system, General Assembly districts are drawn by the governor, and congressional districts are drawn by the General Assembly.