It is rare that a bill comes before a committee in the Maryland General Assembly with no opposition at all. It is even rarer when an unopposed bill promises to be one of the more controversial issues of a legislative session.
But that is the case with a bill introduced by House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin that would create a Maryland Job Training Partnership Program. It is Cardin's top priority this session, something he has pushed for since last fall.
Because of Cardin's interest, the bill is likely to pass. But at today's hearing on it in the House Ways and Means Committee, numerous questions arose.
The program, much of it funded by the new Federal Job Training Partnership Act, will be the first instance of the state taking a role in putting disadvantaged people to work and finding new jobs for the unemployed.
The chief question is: What role should the state play?
Gov. Harry Hughes would like his proposed Department of Labor, Employment and Training to administer the program, overseeing the local jurisdictions that will run most of the retraining programs.
Cardin, who is unsure of whether the state needs the new department, would like the governor and the legislature to have a role in overseeing what goes on. Local governments think that they should be in charge.
Then there is the question of a state contribution to the program. Cheryl Lynch, lobbyist here for the Association of Catholic Charities, which wrote most of the legislation, said that her group plans to ask Hughes to contribute $3 million in state money to the program, in addition to certain matching funds that the state must provide under the federal act.