A state employees union is asking a Baltimore Circuit judge to invalidate a law that would privatize child support enforcement in Baltimore, charging that the provision was improperly tacked onto another bill and passed at the 11th hour of the 1995 General Assembly session.
The law requires the state Department of Human Resources to hire a private company to handle child support collections in Baltimore City and Queen Anne's County. The Maryland Classified Employees Association charges that the law will deprive the affected child-support workers of state benefits and union representation.
The privatization measure initially was defeated after city senators voiced concerns about the effects on workers. But legislative leaders added the measure to a welfare-reform bill, which passed the last day of the session after provisions were added to give the employees similar benefits to those they had with the state.
In a complaint filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the union argues that tacking the child-support provision onto another bill violated the state constitution, which requires that bills deal with a single subject. The combined law "forced certain legislators to acquiesce to a bill that the legislators initially opposed in order to secure other, separate legislation," the complaint states.
In a letter to Gov. Parris N. Glendening after the bill was passed, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said the combined law met constitutional muster because the two subjects were related. Mr. Curran said better child support collection would increase the responsibility fathers took for their children and could reduce welfare rolls by bringing in money owed families.
Department of Human Resources spokeswoman Elyn Jones said yesterday that the privatization program likely would not be operating for another year.