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Howard delegation approves bill giving library employees option to unionize

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The Howard County Delegation Wednesday approved a bill that would offer full-time employees with the Howard County Library System an opportunity to form a union even though the library system's Board of Trustees did not endorse the bill.

The bill, which was requested by the county administration, still must be approved by the General Assembly.

The library system's Board of Trustees decided to remain neutral on the proposal because as far as they knew no employees had requested the legislation and therefore wanted employees to decide for themselves, according to Christie Lassen, director of public relations for the Howard County Library System.

Democratic Del. Guy Guzzone said the bill is about choice.

"There is no requirement to form a union, they just now have the ability," Guzzone said. "They can certainly choose not to do it."

If library employees choose to form a union, they would become the ninth union of county employee groups, including groups such as the Howard County Public School System.

Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman voted against the bill, saying he was disappointed that the library's Board of Trustees did not take a position. 

Through conversations with board members, Kittleman said he thinks trustees oppose the proposal, but are afraid to say it because of concern that it will prompt a response from County Executive Ken Ulman.

"There's no question the Board of Trustees does not think this is a good thing for the library system," he said.

Kittleman was joined in voting against the bill by Republican Delegates Gail Bates and Warren Miller.

The delegation for the second time delayed action on a bill that would increase the salary of the Howard County Sheriff in 2014 and tie any future raises to that of lieutenants within the Howard County Police Department.

Requested by Sheriff James Fitzgerald, whose salary is $85,000, the bill would increase the Sheriff's salary to $112,000 in 2014, equivalent to the pay of a 20-year lieutenant in the police department.

If the salary of lieutenants in the county police department is increased, then the annual salary of the Sheriff will be increased by the same amount, under the proposal.

The bill was held after members of the delegation expressed reservations about increasing the Sheriff's salary.

Democratic Sen. Jim Robey said a raise is justified, but not what is proposed.

"If that's the case, then I'm going to run for Sheriff," he said of the raise included in the bill.

The delegation unanimously approved a bill that would allow restaurants to apply for a liquor license if they are at least 400 feet from a school. The current law requires restaurants to be at least 500 feet from a public school.

County residents could soon have the option of purchasing wine in refillable containers no larger than 128 ounces, if a bill approved by the delegation is passed. 

The delegation voted unanimously to approve the bill, which was originally a part of the bill last year that allowed beer to be sold in refillable containers called growlers.

Miller said Howard County would be the first county in the state to sell wine in refillable containers if the bill is passed. 

The delegation will discuss proposed legislation that would expand hunting next week after Bates said her constituent who requested the bill is still reaching out to the equestrian community.

The legislation would extend hunting on private property on six Sundays during hunting season by removing Howard County from the list of counties in which deer hunting on private property on certain Sundays is prohibited.

If passed, the bill would add one day of firearm hunting and five days of bow hunting in the county.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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