By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun
6:01 PM EST, February 28, 2013
Most of the Howard County public library's 184 employees would have the right to unionize and bargain for pay and benefits under a bill that has been endorsed by the county delegation to Annapolis.
The legislation follows an unsuccessful attempt in the 2010 legislative session to pass a bill that would apply to all library employees in the state and is one of 17 county bills now before the Maryland General Assembly. Other county measures cover alcohol sales, charity casino nights, the county sheriff's salary and an array of bond bills for construction projects.
Of the library's $18.5 million current budget, 80 percent, or $14.8 million, goes to salaries and benefits. The county picks up 89 percent of the cost of running the six-branch system, said Christie Lassen, a library system spokeswoman. She said the system estimates that of 184 employees, about 159 who are not in management would be eligible to form a bargaining unit, but the exact number would be subject to negotiation.
If library employees choose collective bargaining, they would join two-thirds of the county's 2,518 employees who are represented by a union.
Other county bills now before the legislature include:
•A measure to allow volunteer fire companies and veterans organizations to hold charity casino events, including card games and roulette.
•Bond bills for an array of construction projects, including $250,000 to restore five buildings at the historic 68-acre Belmont property near Patapsco Valley State Park in Elkridge; $250,000 to build a playground at Blandair Regional Park in Columbia; $200,000 toward the cost of a second transitional home, run by the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County, for women and families who are leaving emergency housing but cannot afford to get their own place; $150,000 for a restroom, storage and parking area at the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area in Columbia; and $100,000 for renovations at the Arc of Howard County's Homewood Road center in Ellicott City, which provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
•A bill to increase the county sheriff's salary, which has been frozen at $85,000 since 2010 and will remain so through 2014. Starting in 2015, the legislation would boost that by $3,000 each year, to $97,000 in 2018.
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