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LETTERS

The Baltimore Sun

Sports project misses the mark

In the Harford section of this Sunday's Sun was an article concerning the stadium project under way at Harford Technical High School in Harford County.

Work has started on a $3.5 million project to build a stadium with a turf field, install a baseball field and two practice fields and convert a baseball field into a softball field.

Considering the fact that several hundred students are denied admission to the vocational programs each year, this project seems to be missing the mark. Should the first priority not be to expand the size of the school to provide space for more students interested in entering one of the vocational programs?

When are we going to provide funds for the most important objective, which is to create opportunities for our students and not our sports fans.

Edward J. Sienkilewski, Retired Harford County Teacher

Unequal pay remains an issue

On behalf of all the hard-working women who live in Harford County, I am writing to bring attention to April 22, this year's Equal Pay Day.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity's Web site, "Equal Pay Day originated in 1996 when the National Committee on Pay Equity wanted to create a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's and women's wages. The day, observed on a Tuesday in April, symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. Tuesday is the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages from the previous week. Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color."

Women have been entering the work force at a steady rate, increasing from 18.4 million in 1950 to 66.9 million in 2006, yet their pay has not risen to that of their male co-workers.

In general, women earn 77% of what men earn for working the same job. Here are some additional shocking statistics reported by the Department for Professional Employees and the National Committee for Pay Equity:

Today most mothers--even those with the youngest children--participate in the labor force.

Nearly half of all multiple job-holders in 2006 were women.

Women are the majority of temporary and part-time workers. About 33 percent of families where children under 18 lived with their mother (with no father present) were below the poverty level in 2005. Among black single mothers, 42% were below the poverty line.

Some may think that the cause of this issue is women being unable to pursue an education because they are usually the primary care provider for their children or grandchildren, but this simply is not the case.

Women have been earning more bachelor's degrees than men since 1982, and they have been earning more master's degrees than men since 1981.

USA Today reported that women earned 58% of all post-secondary degrees in 2007. Despite this, women also earn less money at every level of education.

The Department for Professional Employees and the National Committee for Pay Equity report that for full-time workers aged 18 and older in 2005:

The median annual earnings of a female high school graduate was more than 34% less than that of her male counterpart.

The median annual earnings of a woman with a bachelor's degree was almost 31% (or $15,911) less than that of a similarly qualified man.

A woman with a master's degree earned 32% (or $21,374) less than a man with a master's degree.

The median annual earnings for a woman with a professional degree were $65,941 while men earned over $100,000.

A woman with a doctoral degree earned more than 29% (or $22,824) less than a similarly qualified man.

The implications of women earning less than men are far-reaching. Not only are women struggling financially while in the work-force, but in retirement they will receive less Social Security benefits and income from pensions because they earned considerably less money over the course of their careers. Also because they earned less, they were less likely to be able to afford to invest money in a 401K or 403b.

So what can be done to close the wage gap?

Businesses can help. Many employers may not realize that their pay policies favor men. By promoting pay equity, businesses can attract the best workers and create a work-force that feels valued.

The National Committee on Pay Equity offers a self-audit link to help businesses analyze its practices, www.pay-equity.org. Individuals can contact House representatives and members of the Senate and express their concerns about unequal pay.

The committee for pay equity also provides links to find out about current legislation on the topic of pay equity.

While I realize that many aspects of life are not fair, the reality that I will earn between $700,000 and $2 million less than my husband, brother, father, or uncle over the course of my work life simply because I am female seems to go a bit beyond unfair.

Lisa Tittle Chairwoman, Harford County Commission for Women

General Assembly and Harford County

As the 2008 General Assembly comes to a close, I'd like to review some of the highlights of the legislation important to us in Harford County.

The Harford County Delegation succeeded in passing all but two bills -- the election of the school board and the slot machines for our veterans' organizations.

Although others might have a different view of what happened to these two bills, here is what I saw from my vantage point as head of the Harford County Delegation. They did not pass for political reasons and no other. The Annapolis oligarchy allowed a select few to kill a bill, give no reason, and pay no price.

A few folks will do almost anything to maintain power and control, even to the point of thwarting the will of their constituents and their representatives, but, if one member of a delegation chooses to force the will of one to subvert the will of the majority, then the voters need to intercede in the next election.

The school board bill appeared to be on the fast track when Senators Barry Glassman (R) and Andrew Harris (R) gained unanimous approval for it in Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee and the full Senate. As approved by the Senate, the bill--SB 306--would authorize six members of the school board to be elected and three to be appointed by the Governor.

With the Senate's unanimous approval, the delegation was hopeful SB 306 would move quickly in the House after being referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, but Chairwoman Sheila Hixson refused to take any action on either SB 306 or the cross filed bill, HB 799.

As chair of the Harford County Delegation, I met with her on several occasions to request local courtesy--a policy of deferring to the county delegation on local issues. That policy is basic to our legislative process because a county delegation understands local issues better and is more answerable to its citizens than non-local delegates and senators who could care less and have no responsibility to Harford residents.

In response to Chairwoman Hixson's feigned concern that the delegation had not provided sufficient proof of citizen support for the elected school board, I personally provided her committee with volumes of documentation demonstrating widespread community, political, and parental support.

Delegate J. B. Jennings (R-District 7) who serves on Ways and Means, worked diligently to persuade Chairwoman Hixson to move the bill and she finally promised him she would put HB 779 on the voting list. She also scheduled a hearing on SB 306, which gave Sen. Glassman the opportunity to testify before her committee.

Although the committee had no questions for Sen. Glassman after he finished testifying, the delegation continued to hear Chairwoman Hixson needed more proof of support, such as a letter of support from the current school board which would be replaced if the bill had passed.

Sen. Glassman met with House Speaker Michael Busch to see why the bill was not moving and to advocate for its passage. He emphasized that other delegations had not been required to provide the documentation being requested by Chairwoman Hixson before those bills were passed out of her committee.

In the final days of the session, it was clear neither Chairwoman Hixson nor the Speaker intended to have the House vote on SB 306 or HB 779. After I challenged her with House Rule 41--a rule requiring a bill voted in committee to reach the floor within three legislative days, unless a committee directs otherwise, Chairwoman Hixson very cleverly asked the Speaker to take her committee off the floor and to the Silver Room. At that time, she covered her mistake for violating Rule 41.

Unfortunately, all of the Democratic members of the committee voted to let her have her way and say she had the authority to act for the committee after the fact. As a result, neither HB 779 nor SB 306 made it to the House floor for a vote before adjournment, due to partisan politics.

Partisan politics also caused the demise of the delegation's slots bill even though the delegation had a bipartisan team working to get this bill through the process. The team, expertly led by Del. Dan Riley (D-District 34A) and ably assisted by Del. Wayne Norman (R-District 35A), did succeed in getting a hearing on the House bill in the Ways and Means Committee and the hearing gave Del. Riley the opportunity to explain, as he does so well, why the bill would simply provide Harford County veteran organizations with the same rights Eastern Shore veterans organizations already have (five slot machines with the proceeds being divided equally between charity and the post home).

Chairwoman Hixson never allowed HB 780 to come up for a vote. If she had done so, it likely would have passed both the committee and the House, but Speaker Busch was determined to kill the bill.

The delegation, however, did get nine bills through the process, including bond bills authorizing $250,000 for the Lower Susquehanna Greenway Trail Development, $100,000 for the Churchville Library Green Building and Science Center, and $650,000 for the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute Renovation in Harford and Cecil Counties.

Del. Donna Stifler (R-District 35A) and Del. Rick Impallaria (R-District 7) worked diligently to get a bill through which would increase from two to five the number of licenses that may be issued by the Harford County Liquor Control Board to one licensee. This new law makes it possible for a restaurant in Bel Air or elsewhere in the county to open more restaurants throughout the county.

Del. Mary-Dulany James (D-District 34A), took charge in getting the bill passed to allow Harford County to create special taxing districts and issue certain bonds for developing and financing infrastructure improvements if all the owners of real property within the proposed special taxing district petition the county for the creation of the district.

Other delegation bills which passed are: 1) a bill to allow deer hunting on private property on the first Sunday of the bow hunting season in November and the first Sunday of the deer firearms season, and 2) a bill to allow Harford County to pay a claim for a refund of personal property tax without interest within a certain period after the claim is approved if it is determined the refund is a result of a failure to file a report when due or other taxpayer error.

Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) and Del. Pat McDonough (R-District 7) worked tirelessly on legislation to make our communities more safe. Their continued vigilance really makes a difference on law and order bills.

Much time and energy was spent this session trying to agree on the budget, particularly after the downturn in the economy caused a sharp decline in proposed state revenue.

In the final weekend, the legislature repealed the $200 million sales tax on computer services that members passed in the last minutes of the 2007 Special Session. By a vote of 93 to 44, the House repealed this anti-business tax before it could go into effect on July 1, 2008.

The final budget included $276,228,000 for Harford County, with $20,616,000 going to the municipal government, $11,384,000 to community colleges, $210,827,000 to public schools, $1,744,000 to libraries and $3,186,000 for health care services. The county received a slight increase of 1.1 percent over last year's budget.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me during the interim at P. O. Box 1204, Bel Air, Maryland 21014, at 410 836-9449, 410 838-5187, fax 410 838-5768 or Susan.McComas@house.state.md.us.

Del. Susan McComas District 35B, Bel Air

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