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Engle gets governor's handshake

May 18, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County Department of Social Services Director David Engle doesn't usually like ceremonies.

But a bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year was so important that Engle asked for an opportunity to shake Gov. Parris Glendening's hand.

The law will pressure parents who don't pay their child support to work out their differences in pre-court conferences.

"A lot of kids'll be helped by this bill," Engle said.

Glendening actually signed the bill April 25.

When Engle missed the event, Glendening gave him another chance to get his picture taken at Thursday's final bill-signing ceremony.

Washington County leads the state in child support collection.

Social Services began holding pre-court conferences in 1996, as a way to streamline child support cases and requests for child support changes.

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Resolving differences before the cases get to court saves time for the courts and parents, Engle said.

But attendance at the conferences dropped after people began to find out there were no consequences for missed appointments.

The new law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, allows Washington County Circuit judges to issue a so-called body attachment, in which a police officer brings a violator before the court to explain his or her absence. A bond could be set, which would be forfeited if the violator didn't show up for the next court date.

A similar bill was sponsored in 1998 by the Washington County legislative delegation. It was defeated by the House Judiciary Committee.

That bill was rewritten to exclude child support cases that are just being established.

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