Montgomery County employes who are delinquent in making child support payments may soon see that money deducted from their county paychecks, following a vote yesterday by the Montgomery County Council to allow the county government to make deductions at the request of the employe's former spouse.
"This is an important step forward in solving one of the most important problems facing single parents," said council member David Scull. "We'll hopefully set a model for the state and the rest of the country." County officials don't know how many county employes may be affected, he said.
The deduction would be automatic once the parent with the child submits a one-page form attached to a court order, and would occur whether or not there had been any missed or late payments.
Scull, who unsuccessfully fought for similar statewide legislation when he was a member of the House of Delegates, yesterday cited nationwide statistics showing that more than 50 percent of parents never begin making their legally required child support payments. Often, recipients do not try to recover back payments because of the high legal fees involved, he said, and government agencies also fail to track down the delinquent parents.
Without the support, the single parent often ends up on public assistance.
Similar legislation has been introduced elsewhere, including Washington, D.C., patterned after the federal model that allows the government to take court-ordered support payments out of income tax returns once a parent has been found in default by a court.
In a busy last day before an August recess, council members also introduced legislation establishing penalties against persons involved in racially motivated incidents.
Council member Michael Gudis and others introduced a bill imposing criminal penalties and civil liability for cross burnings or any other destruction of property that is religiously or racially motivated. The bill would allow the county attorney or the state's attorney to prosecute violators for a crime, and force persons convicted of hate activities to pay $1,000 to the victim and another $1,000 to the county.
The bill would also make parents liable for their children who burn crosses or engage in any of the other hate activities that have plagued the county the past year.
The fines paid to the county would be placed in a special "crimesolvers" fund, proposed in a separate bill, which is to go to people who give information on handgun crimes, violent crimes against people, or any racially and religiously motivated crimes. Payments would not exceed $1,000 per incident.
"We continue to be the standout county in Maryland in the number of these [racially motivated] incidents," Scull said. "These bills are a one-two punch."