- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

ANNAPOLIS The committee drafting state legislative districts is doing its work in secret, drawing complaints from Republicans that the public has been locked out of decisions that will help determine the makeup of the General Assembly for the next 10 years.
The one Republican on the five-member committee created by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, says even she is being kept in the dark by her Democratic colleagues.
"I hear about all these maps being handed around. I never see the maps," said Louise Gulyas, a Republican county commissioner from Worcester County.
Secretary of State John Willis, chairman of the committee, said members hold meetings and telephone conversations all the time as they try to draft proposed districts for the 47 senators and 141 House members.
The committee includes Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Casper Taylor and Isiah Leggett, a Montgomery County councilman. "It's a daily consensus-building process," Mr. Willis said.
"The process is not really a voting process because our charge is to give recommendations to the governor. The governor's map that he submits on the first day of the session is really the official map," he said.
Mr. Willis said the committee will try to wrap up work in the next 10 days or so and have a public hearing on its proposal by Dec. 21.
Mr. Glendening will make the final decision on the plan, which will become law unless the legislature adopts its own map by the 45th day of the session that begins Jan. 9.
House Minority Leader Robert Kittleman, Howard Republican, said even the timing of the public hearing, just before Christmas, is suspect.
"You talk about getting it in under the radar," he said. "Who's going to pay much attention to the plans" that close to Christmas? Mr. Kittleman said. "They have really cut the public out of it."
The attorney general's office advised the committee that it was not covered by the state open meetings law because it was created by the governor through a letter, not an executive order, and because all of its members were on the public payroll.
House Minority Whip Robert Flanagan, Howard Republican, did not quarrel with the attorney general's advice, but said that "just because there's a loophole doesn't mean they should be doing it."
"It's unconscionable that they are affecting the value of people's votes by gerrymandering legislative and congressional districts in secret," he said.
The committee held meetings around the state to get input on how to draw districts for the 188 legislators and the eight members of the House of Representatives.
Mr. Willis said anyone who wants districts drawn differently will have time to make recommendations and have them considered before the governor introduces his plan.
Mr. Miller described drawing new legislative districts "as one of the most difficult undertakings that anyone can be asked to do."
The committee is dealing with issues involving sex, geography and equal representation for minorities, he said.
There will be hearings "in the House and Senate and people will have the opportunity to come forward and make their views known."
"It's not something being done behind closed doors," Mr. Miller said.

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