Child support privatization bill dies


Under intense opposition from state employee unions and city lawmakers, the Maryland Senate narrowly defeated legislation yesterday that would have forced the state to turn over some child support collection duties to a private contractor.

House Bill 1177 passed the House a week ago, but failed in the Senate, 24-23, despite assurances from supporters that the bill would be amended to protect the 350 or so workers whose jobs and benefits would be affected.

Despite the defeat, backers of the bill worked late yesterday to see if it could be revived before the General Assembly adjourns tomorrow night.

"It's not dead until it's dead and buried," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill. "I think we've got it on a respirator."

Mr. Rawlings and other backers of the bill have criticized state efforts to collect past-due child support payments, especially in Baltimore, where last year the collection rate was only 14 percent. Advocates for the privatization bill say the higher the collection rate, the less the state will have to pay to support families on welfare.

And a private company, they say, surely can do a better job than the state is doing.

The legislation would direct the secretary of Human Resources to turn over all child support collection duties in Baltimore and in Queen Anne's County to a private contractor by July 1, 1996.

Employees would be guaranteed their jobs with the private contractor for at least two years, and amendments were pending that could have allowed them to keep state pension benefits as well.

E9 But that apparently was not enough, and the employees

launched a telephone counterattack that won the backing of city senators.

Lame-duck governors retain pardon power

Legislation that would have barred lame-duck governors from granting pardons and reprieves died in the House of Delegates late yesterday.

The proposed constitutional amendment failed on a 71-58 vote. That was 14 votes shy of the necessary three-fifths majority.

The measure would have prohibited a governor from granting a pardon or reprieve in the last three months of a second term in office or after he or she had failed to win re-election.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, submitted the bill in reaction to some controversial pardons issued by former Gov. William Donald Schaefer late in his second term. Gov. Parris N. Glendening had supported the legislation which, had it passed the legislature, would have appeared

before the voters on the November 1996 ballot.

Some state employees can 'telecommute'

Legislation that would allow some state employees to "telecommute" from their homes rather than travel to offices received final approval from the General Assembly last week.

The measure would direct the governor to establish a statewide, three-year pilot program to measure the benefits of telecommut

ing. About 7.6 million Americans telecommute via computers and facsimile machines.

The state has 82,000 employees, but not all would be eligible for the program.

"The secretary who answers the telephone couldn't be spared from the office for even one day a week," said Del. Joan B. Pitkin, the Prince George's Democrat who sponsored the bill.

Proponents, including labor unions and environmentalists, say telecommuting can ease highway congestion, reduce air pollution and improve worker efficiency. The state Departments of Personnel and Environment also support the proposal.

The measure was sent to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who is expected to sign it into law.

Senators keep power to choose notaries

A bill that would have stripped Maryland's 47 senators of the power to select notaries was killed last week by a Senate committee.

The Judicial Proceedings Committee voted 10-1 to defeat the measure.

Notaries are appointed by the governor, but each senator must pass judgment on the applicants from his or her district. Maryland has 80,798 notaries. The primary duty of a notary is to act as an unbiased witness to legal documents.

Critics say senatorial approval is a perk that leaves large numbers of voters beholden to an incumbent. The bill, sponsored by Republican Del. Robert H. Kittleman of Howard County, would have left the appointment to the governor alone.

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