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Md. bill aims to help people enter trades

February 19, 1997

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - A proposal aimed at increasing the number of trained trades workers in Maryland is drawing attention both for its goals and for a taxpayer price tag of more than $500,000.

Under the proposed legislation, the state would pay for potential plumbers, electricians and other crafts people to go through on-the-job apprenticeship training. Contractors told the House Economic Matters Committee Tuesday that the legislation is needed because too few young people are choosing careers in the trades.

"We are in constant need of young, entry-level apprentices, which are not available in our area," said John Barr, president and owner of Ellsworth Electric Co. in Hagerstown.

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The legislation is sponsored by Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, who said it could be the answer for those area residents who want to earn a good living but don't plan to attend college.

"If we train the young people properly, they can have a good wage," Poole said.

The program would award $1,000 grants for each apprentice to trade organizations, unions and other private-sector groups that offer apprenticeship programs.

It would cost the state $584,100 next year, according to the General Assembly's Department of Fiscal Services.

"I'm wondering why we should create a new state program," said Del. Robert L. Frank, D-Baltimore County.

But supporters said the plan would be worth the price, especially in terms of recruiting young people who are not considering a career in the trades.

"The image of the construction industry is not getting the young people into the trades," said Joan Warner, executive director of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.

The hearing on the legislation found both union and management officials supporting the program.

"This is a record day," said Del. Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, who chairs the committee.

In another hearing Tuesday, Poole asked the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee to approve a bill that would limit the cost of obtaining public records to 25 cents a page.

Deborah Povich, executive director of Common Cause of Maryland, said some state agencies are charging $1 per page, which can be pricey when larger documents are being obtained.

"In terms of access to public information, a dollar a page is outrageous," Povich said.

But again, Poole's bill would carry a state price tag - an estimated $184,000 next year.

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