Delegation favors increase in divorce fee Violence programs stand to benefit

February 04, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

Divorces in Howard County may cost a little bit more next fall.

The county legislative delegation yesterday approved a bill for the General Assembly that would increase the divorce filing fee in the county by $30.

The fee increase would take effect in October and generate $25,000 annually for county domestic violence programs, said the bill's sponsor, Republican Del. Martin G. Madden of District 13B.

The legislators approved the bill narrowly, with the delegates voting 4-2 and the senators voting 2-1. The current fee in Howard Circuit Court is $91 with an attorney, $81 without.

Mr. Madden had the bill drafted in the past week after he and other members of the delegation killed a similar proposal by Democratic Del. Virginia M. Thomas of District 13A.

Ms. Thomas had proposed raising money for domestic violence through an increase in the county marriage license fee. Mr. Madden had opposed that bill, arguing that he saw no connection between marriage and domestic violence.

Ms. Thomas fought the divorce fee bill on two fronts yesterday. She argued that the delegation should not consider it, because it had been filed late.

"I have a real problem voting for this bill without a public hearing," Ms. Thomas said.

Ms. Thomas also said that the increase would put an undue burden on battered women who file divorce proceedings against their husbands.

Mr. Madden disagreed and said that Ms. Thomas' earlier proposal would have put too great a burden on young newlyweds.

"Young couples starting out are generally doing so on a shoestring," Mr. Madden said. By the time a couple divorces, they are more likely to be able to afford the fee increase, he said.

In other business, the delegation rejected a bill by Ms. Thomas that would have required political candidates to file financial disclosure statements in both Annapolis and Ellicott City. Ms. Thomas said that this would make it easier for citizens to keep track of who is contributing to politicians' campaigns.

"The citizens have no access to the information without driving to Annapolis," she said.

All three senators voted in favor of the bill, but it died among the delegates by a 2-3 vote.

Republican Del. John S. Morgan of District 13B said he voted against the bill in favor of a statewide measure that would require filing disclosures in county seats across Maryland.

The Howard delegation is scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. Feb. 17 in the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis. It is expected to meet with several Howard County groups at that time, and Mr. Madden may present a local bill designed to protect cemeteries.

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