Miller and Busch Tell All will Lead to Redistricting Reform

Big news coming from the judicial world this morning:

A three-judge panel has ordered Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch to give depositions and turn over documents in a federal lawsuit challenging the 2011 redrawing of the state’s congressional districts.

The ruling affirmed an earlier order by U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, which had been appealed by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office citing “legislative privilege.”

“Because of the importance of the federal interests at stake and because the evidence of these conversations may be crucial to their vindication, we … therefore hold in this case that legislative privilege does not protect conversations and other communications between legislators,” wrote Fourth Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer…

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…The order also calls on three legislators — Del. Curt Anderson and Sens. C. Anthony Muse and Richard Madaleno — to cooperate with the lawsuit.

This has been quite a winding road for this lawsuit, which has been going on for four years and will still see a delay in the depositions of Miller and Busch until after the General Assembly session. With only two elections between now and the 2020 Redistricting, this suit will have far more of an impact on future redistricting than it will in redrawing districts for 2018 or 2020.

But the real question is what Mike Miller and Mike Busch will actually say under oath in their depositions. How much are they going to admit, on the record, about their efforts to gerrymander Maryland not just at the Congressional level, but at the legislative level as well. This was known at the time, of course. As I testified to the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee, on which both Miller and Busch were members:

Unfortunately, the presence of the general public at this hearing today is nothing more than a formality. There is no reason for the average citizen to believe that comments made here today will have any relevant impact to the machinations and decision-making of this Commission. The Governor has appointed to this Commission members who will uphold nothing more than the status quo, providing us with results similar to the shameful 2001 Redistricting Process. It is the Governor’s right, but that does not mean it is good policy or in the best interests of the people of this state….

…As you continue your hearings and make your recommendations to the Governor, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that you really have only two options to choose from: do as the voters would hope you would do, and act in their best interests to recommend districts that are fair and equitable; or do as the voters expect you will do, which is to act in whatever you think is the best interests of the Maryland Democratic Party.

The depositions of Miller and Busch are not going to fix the damage done by the 2012 redistricting plan. But it is going to make the case to pass Governor Larry Hogan’s redistricting proposals. The testimony of Miller and Busch (and to a lesser extent the “cooperation” of Madaleno, Muse, and Anderson) are going to explicitly show the people of this state the level of partisan nonsense and tomfoolery that went into Martin O’Malley’s redistricting schemes. They are going to show the truly partisan nature of the process as it currently exists, and the people of Maryland will finally see, without a show of a doubt, the need for comprehensive reform. Miller and Busch will show that there is no excuse to keep the Governor’s redistricting reform bill hidden in a drawer as tehy have done for so long.

The lawsuit against the 2012 Congressional districts may be successful or it may not, but the long-term impact of the words of Mike Miller and Mike Busch to light should have long-term consequences that benefit all Marylanders wishing to Congressional and legislative representation that truly represents the people of our state.

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