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September 14, 2011

Special Session Challenges

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In a little over a month, the Maryland General Assembly will hold its 15th special session since 1970. The General Assembly is scheduled to convene October 17 to redraw the state’s eight congressional districts based on the results of the 2010 census.


According to information from a newsletter from State Sen. Joe Getty (R., Carroll-Baltimore): “The state legislative plan will be the second project of the (governor’s redistricting) committee and will be presented on the first day of the legislative session Jan. 11, 2012.”


For more on Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s five-member redistricting committee see from July 6, “More Redistricting Food for Thought.”


With the possible exception of information being disseminated by Senator Getty, most citizens have heard nary a peep about the upcoming legislative festivities in October.


Senator Getty, who as a state delegate in 2002, was one of the petitioners who successfully challenged (in the Maryland Court of Appeals) the last redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly. He is considered a constitutional scholar on such matters and has convened several information events on this year’s redistricting process. He also testified before the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee at Hood College in Frederick on July 23.


According to Senator Getty in an article published in the Northern News on August 4: “There are 47 senate districts in Maryland and in this year's redistricting the ideal population for each senate district is 122,813. Each senate district contains three members of the House of Delegates. So, the ideal single-member house district is one-third of a senate district or 40,938.


In July, Senator Getty recommended a “plan for reconfiguring the Carroll County State Senate and House of Delegates districts based upon population counts from the 2010 census…”


“Carroll County's population grew 10.8 percent in the last decade, 150,897 to 166,901,” wrote Senator Getty, “which roughly mirrors the overall state growth rate of nine percent. While Maryland saw a dramatic increase in minority population statewide, Carroll County's percentage of minority population grew more modestly from 4.9 percent to 8.8 percent…


“Fortunately, the statewide shifts in population over the last decade support the redistricting plan for Carroll County that I proposed to reverse the Glendenning map and restore a senate district entirely within the county's boundaries.”


As for Frederick County, Senator Getty says “the senate district that saw the most population gain in the entire state was District 3 in Frederick County.


“This population gain was sufficient to give Frederick County two complete senate districts entirely within its boundaries. The domino effect would be to pull house District 4B [represented by Del. Donald Elliott] entirely into Frederick County thus ending the traditional sharing between Carroll and Frederick counties that began in the mid-1960s.”


Another recent mention of the special session comes from Del. Galen Clagett, (D., Frederick) in a letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun on September 10.


Delegate Galen wrote: “During the special session it is important state legislators not waiver from their task of approving a reapportionment plan. For that reason, they should not consider any new taxes or major policy initiatives.”


Yes, but who can forget the last special session that convened in October 2007 to address the state’s structural deficit?


Maybe, just maybe, Marylanders should reacquaint themselves with that special session because many fears were expressed during the regular session of the 428th Maryland General Assembly last winter that new taxes would be proposed this fall.


It is not an unrealistic fear because anytime the General Assembly meets Marylanders should cower in fear for their property rights and firmly hold on to their wallets.


Nevertheless, Delegate Galen continued: “During the past several legislative sessions, the General Assembly has put in place a spending plan that recognizes the tough fiscal times the state faces by supporting education and transportation.


“The legislature needs to continue to hold the line on taxes so working families will have enough funds to maintain their households. Businesses need to hold on to their money as they continue to recover from the long-term national recession.”


Well, let’s hope such is the case. However, in an undated post by the National Federation of Independent Business, it was noted that “the President of the Senate Mike Miller and several other lawmakers are signaling that the special session may bring more than just a vote on new congressional district lines.


“The special session may very well bring debate and votes for new taxes; those being discussed include gasoline and Internet taxes and expansion of the sales tax to services.”


That said, Annie Linskey recently observed in her Baltimore Sun blog, Maryland Politics: “Maryland finished the fiscal year with $990 million in unspent funds, showing an end-of-year surplus that was about 50 percent higher than expected, according to a memo obtained by The Sun.


“The administration attributes the balance to better-than-anticipated income tax returns, a sign that the economy firmed over the past year. The new data shows the state has $344 million over their estimates.”


However, Hayley Peterson wrote in a recent Washington Examiner article that “Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley says state lawmakers must consider tax increases to help plug a projected budget shortfall that is expected to exceed $1 billion for fiscal 2013.


“‘We need to be open to a balanced approach, including, if necessary, looking at revenues,’ O'Malley said Monday on WTOP radio.”


Okay, there – now you have it…


Maybe now would be a good time to contact your elected representative to the Maryland General Assembly with your thoughts and questions about the upcoming special session.


…I’m just saying……


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