ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration expects this fall’s special legislative session on congressional redistricting will be convened in the week of Oct. 17, an O’Malley spokesman said July 5.
While the governor has not yet formally announced the exact date for the session, O’Malley is planning to call it sometime that week, Rick Abbruzzese said.
The Maryland legislature typically meets for a 90-day session beginning in January, but lawmakers need a special session to re-draw the state’s eight congressional districts based on the results of the census. If lawmakers only take up congressional redistricting, the session is not expected to last more than a few days.
Some lawmakers have suggested introducing legislation in addition to redistricting to raise revenue for the state’s badly depleted Transportation Trust Fund. Although lawmakers will be able to introduce legislation when they gather for the special session, it’s unclear how much support exists to take on challenging revenue measures.
House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Tuesday he has not had any discussions yet about taking up issues other than redistricting during the special session. He also questioned why lawmakers should hold a long special session to work on tough legislation without clear consensus, when lawmakers will gather for their regular session in January.
“There is no reason to take up an issue that there’s not an agreement on other than redistricting,” Busch told The Associated Press in an interview July 5.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, indicated in a letter to O’Malley in May that he was interested in expanding the scope of the special session to work on some high-profile issues, including the state’s structural deficit, shifting some teacher pension costs to local governments and transportation funding concerns. Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, a state commission recommended that Maryland raise $800 million more in annual transportation funding to shore up the transportation revenues.
O’Malley, a Democrat, has expressed interest in moving away from a traditional flat tax on gasoline, because new cars and trucks are now designed to use less gas.
“The governor is still considering whether to address the Transportation Trust Fund in a special session or wait until the next regular session,” Abbruzzese said July 5.
The recommendations by the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding included applying the state’s sales tax to gasoline. Currently, the state has a 23.5 cents per gallon gas tax, which was last raised in 1992.
A five-member panel that met publicly for the first time on July 6 will make recommendations to the governor for redrawing Maryland’s eight congressional districts.
The commission also will submit recommendations for reconfiguring state legislative districts. The governor will introduce that plan in a joint resolution to the General Assembly on Jan. 11, the first day of the legislative session. Lawmakers will have 45 days to either approve the governor’s plan or pass an alternative plan. If a plan is not passed in 45 days, the governor’s plan becomes law as submitted.