ANNAPOLIS – Starting October 1, Maryland residents who fall behind in their child support payments can have their drivers licenses suspended under a year-old law.
But those holding professional licenses would receive similar treatment under a bill introduced by Delegates Pauline Menes, D-Prince George’s, and Mark Shriver, D-Montgomery.
Thirty-three states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have adopted legislation that ties holding a license to payment of child support, a federal official told members of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Of these, most put business or professional licenses in the same category as drivers licenses, said Karen Bartlett, a program specialist with the U.S. Office of Child Support Enforcement.
President Clinton, meanwhile, would support such a proposal at the federal level, according to an agency spokesman.
State officials are split on the measure, which would require state agencies to revoke a license if someone falls three months behind in making payments.
Clifford Layman, director of the state Child Support Enforcement Administration, gave his support to the bill in an interview before the hearing, and sent an assistant to testify.
The agency that licenses health professionals, on the other hand, sent committee chairman Joseph Vallario Jr., D-Prince George’s, a letter opposing the bill.
“If you take away professional licenses … the child support won’t ever be made up,” said Ann E. Tyminski, legislative liaison for the Health Occupations Boards, in an interview Thursday.
The American Civil Liberties Union also opposes the bill. “Just because the majority of states do something doesn’t mean it’s right,” said Executive Director Stuart Comstock-Gay, in an interview Wednesday.
After the hearing, Menes said she would amend the bill to remove lawyers from those who would face the loss of their licenses to practice.
According to Albert Winchester III, who testified for the Maryland State Bar Association, lawyers are already subject to disciplinary proceedings if they fail to pay child support.
T. Michael Preston, general counsel for the state physicians association, said the bill was too rigid.
“There’s no flexibility in it,” Preston said while he waited to testify. “The licensing boards are being recruited in this effort, and granted, child support is a problem, but it seems to me that that’s really not their function.” -30-