Monday, March 29, 2010

Md. bill would make census count inmates where they came from, not places where they are held

In a fight that is likely to be repeated in many other states, the Maryland House of Delegates gave a preliminary approval last week to a bill that would prohibit the census from counting prisoners in the counties where they are detained unless they resided there before their imprisonment. The bill is similar to one the Maryland Senate previously approved and "could come to a final vote in the House within days," Andy Rosen reports for The bills are opposed by rural lawmakers whose districts may be disadvantaged if prisoners housed there are counted elsewhere, because the census is used to redraw legislative districts.

"It’s a blatant attempt to pad urban districts like Baltimore City that lost representation in the last redistricting," House Minority Whip Chris Shank, a Republican whose district houses 8,000 inmates at three correctional facilities near Hagerstown, told Rosen. "Shank proposed an amendment that would have imposed similar restrictions on people living in military barracks and college campuses, but it was defeated by a vote of 45-92," Rosen writes. Bill sponsor Joselyne Pena-Melnyk, a Democrat whose district contains part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and the capital of Annapolis, said the legislation is not designed to affect state funding, and it would only provide a more accurate count of where people live.(Read more)

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