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Redistricting criticized at GOP meeting

November 19, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN, Md. — Charges of Democratic gerrymandering and complaints that Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley is conducting "a war on rural Maryland" came up Saturday morning when Republican members of Washington County delegation's to the Maryland General Assembly met with the Washington County Republican Central Committee.

State Sen. Christopher B. Shank and Delegates Neil C. Parrott, Andrew A. Serafini and Michael J. Hough met with the committee over breakfast at Next Dimensions restaurant.

Parrott, R-Washington, discussed how the 6th Congressional District's lines were redrawn in a redistricting plan passed last month during a special session in Annapolis. He said it weakens the political power of traditionally conservative Western Maryland.

"What do we have in common with Gaithersburg or Rockville?" Parrott asked of two Montgomery County communities that now are part of the district.

The 6th Congressional District, which is represented by Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in Congress, had stretched from Garrett County in the west through the northern half of Harford County in the east.

As redrawn, Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties now are part of the 8th Congressional District, as well as much of Frederick County. The district previously had a small section of Montgomery County, but now extends farther southeast toward Washington, D.C.

The census numbers used to remap the state also count inmates housed in prisons in Washington County as being from the areas of the state where they originally came from, often the Baltimore area, which has been losing population, Parrott said.

"This is not how we're supposed to do the census," Parrott said. "They are doing it to keep the elitist liberals in power."

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the redistricting plan, Parrott said. If that does not succeed in the courts, he said the issue could be put on the ballot for a referendum.

Shank, R-Washington, spoke against PlanMaryland, an initiative by O'Malley that Shank said places more power over land-use planning in the hands of the state and Secretary of Planning Richard E. Hall. That plan, and a speeded-up watershed improvement program, would negatively affect property rights and property values for those in more rural areas of the state, he said.

"This is very much a war on rural Maryland" that will squelch economic development and job growth, Shank said.

As examples, Shank said the use of septic systems would be curtailed and subdivisions of more than five houses would be required to have some type of sewage treatment system, increasing costs.

Implementing the watershed plan would cost $37 billion, which is in excess of the state's general fund, Shank said.

Washington County Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline agreed that the state is trying to usurp planning power away from counties and communities.

"If we let some bureaucrat looking over the harbor eating shrimp cocktails and crab balls tell us what to do, that's wrong," Cline said.

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