Maggie’s Legislative Update: Civil Marriage and Redistricting

Posted by Matt on February 17, 2011  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update: Civil Marriage and Redistricting

Dear Friends:

There is a lot of activity in Annapolis this week as we continue public hearings on bills and begin to actually vote on legislation. In this week’s update I want to give you an update on civil marriage legislation, a more in-depth look at the redistricting process and what it means for Baltimore City, and share some good news about the academic achievement of Maryland students.

Civil Marriage: Senate Vote Coming Soon

First, I am pleased to let you know that the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is expected to issue a favorable report later this afternoon on SB 116, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act, meaning it may come to a vote by the full Senate within the next two weeks. The Baltimore Sun reports that Senate President Miller is confident there are the votes necessary to override a potential filibuster and the final vote may be as soon as Monday, February 28th. Assuming SB 116 passes the Senate, it will then come up for discussion in the House Judiciary Committee.

As one of the main sponsors of civil marriage legislation over the past several years, I am proud of the progress we have made towards securing equality for LGBT Marylanders. I am also especially proud of all of you who have worked tirelessly to get us to this point. Many of you have written to me to share your personal stories and I had the opportunity to meet with a number of concerned citizens from Equality Maryland this past Monday to discuss why civil marriage legislation is so important.  Should things go as expected this afternoon in the Senate, it will mark a major milestone in the struggle to ensure the rights of LGBT citizens, but it is not the end of the road. I will continue to push and to work with my peers to ensure this legislation passes and equality becomes the law of the land in Maryland. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection act will pass because it is right and because Marylanders are fair-minded people who have, and will continue to, make sure their legislators are as well.

Maggie with activists from Equality Maryland

Redistricting

In my last update I briefly described how the legislative redistricting process works in Maryland. Since then the US Census Bureau has released preliminary results for the 2010 Census. These numbers show Maryland as a growing, increasingly diverse state but put Baltimore City in a potentially precarious position as we begin the redistricting process. While Maryland’s population grew by over 481,000 people over the last ten years, Baltimore City’s population decreased by nearly 30,000.

No matter how you slice it, Baltimore City is the only jurisdiction in Maryland to lose population over the last decade. According to the census data, the size of the average State senatorial district increased from 112,691 residents in 200 to 122,841 in 2010. Looking at the raw numbers, it looks very likely that Baltimore City may lose a Senator and 3 Delegates when the General Assembly formulates their redistricting plan this Summer and Fall.

One solution that may be looked at are split City-County districts. Prior to the 2002 redistricting, no fewer than 18 legislative districts touched some part of Baltimore City. In 2002, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the redistricting plan submitted by the Governor ruling that it created too many sprawling districts and did not respect existing geographic and natural boundaries. Following the ruling, the Court implemented their own plan which divided Baltimore City into the six current, self-contained districts we have today. As a result of the 2002 Court of Appeals ruling, there is some uncertainty whether split City-County districts would be legally permissible even with the population shifts of the last decade.

In Maryland, the Governor is responsible for coming up with a plan for State legislative redistricting and submitting it to the General Assembly for approval. The General Assembly is responsible for drafting and passing a plan for Congressional redistricting. This Summer, the General Assembly will call a special session to work through the Congressional plan and will debate the Governor’s proposal at the beginning of the 2012 session. As we delve into the redistricting process in the weeks and months ahead, my colleagues and I in the Baltimore City Delegation will work with Governor O’Malley and pursue all possibilities under law to preserve as much representation for Baltimore City as possible.

Maryland: #1 in Student AP Test Performance!

Finally, I wanted to share some good news about Maryland’s students. Once again, Maryland students ranked tops in the nation for student performance on Advanced Placement (AP) tests. According to the College Board, 26.4% of Maryland graduates received a 3 or higher – the score usually required to receive college credit – on AP tests. Additionally, Maryland led the country in African-American performance on AP tests. 9.9% of all successful AP graduates are African-American, which is a 3.4% increase over last year.

While this is a positive trend, Baltimore City still lags behind the rest of the state with only 3.5% of all students city-wide having received a passing grade on an AP exam. School administrators are making strides in this area by making AP courses available in more city schools and pursuing an ambitious goal of having 50% of city students pass at least one AP exam within three years, which would outpace even the best suburban districts. This year 36 of the 40 public and charter schools in Baltimore City offer AP courses as opposed to only 14 three years ago. We still have a long way to go, but there is reason to be optimistic that Baltimore City schools are on the right track.

Maryland has doubled the amount of State investment in K-12 education since the passage of Bridge to Excellence in 2003, bringing total education spending to $5.6 billion proposed for Fiscal Year 2012.

Thank you again for your interest in the legislative process and for continuing to share your thoughts and concerns on the important issues we face in the House of Delegates. As always, feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have.

Sincerely,

Maggie McIntosh