Legislators drop effort to allow private child support collection

March 16, 2001|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Two Prince George's County legislators have abandoned their effort to have a private company take over child support collections in the county after encountering opposition from government employees and Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

The proposed legislation, which was withdrawn this week, also would have extended the state's child support privatization project in Baltimore and Queen Anne's County for three more years, beyond its scheduled expiration date of Nov. 1, 2002.

"There were just a lot of unanswered questions [about] what would happen to the employees," said Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Democrat and sponsor of the bill.

In the House, Del. Rushern L. Baker III, the bill's chief sponsor, said he withdrew the measure, in part, because of the governor's opposition. Baker said Glendening's office had indicated support for the privatization concept in the fall. "I'm getting mixed signals," said Baker, also a Democrat.

The decision on the bill pleased county child support workers.

"We're very much relieved, although we will not be completely relaxed until the General Assembly adjourns on April 9," said Kimberly D. Roberts, a manager in the office of child support services.

Child support enforcement has been a county-run operation in Prince George's, but county officials notified the state in the fall that they want to turn the operation back over to the state. The state runs child support enforcement in most Maryland counties.

Maximus Inc., the private company that manages child support collections in Baltimore and Queen Anne's County, lobbied for legislation for Prince George's.

If such a bill had passed, Maximus was expected to bid on the service. It has a three-year contract to collect child support in Baltimore and Queen Anne's and a contract to handle customer service work in Prince George's.

Robert L. Sarno, a vice president, said Maximus is disappointed that it won't get a chance to expand its role in the county. "They are moving in another direction, and that's fine," he said.

Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

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