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Baltimore City Council set to pass a bill to aid nursing mothers, delay vote on Airbnb restrictions

The Baltimore City Council was scheduled tonight to hold final votes on two measures that will impact city businesses: a bill to improve how companies accommodate lactating mothers and proposed legislation to regulate and tax Airbnb-style properties.

But the council announced at its lunch on Monday that it has pulled the Airbnb measure from a final vote tonight to work on a few more amendments to the bill. The lactation bill is still scheduled for a vote.

The Airbnb measure would impose the city’s 9.5 percent hotel tax to short-term rentals, introduce licensing requirements for these properties and allow certain people to only rent out their primary residences.

The measure enjoys the support of 10 sponsors on the 15-member council, which has faced considerable pressure from the hotel industry to address concerns about people who use Airbnb and similar sites to use properties as full-time rentals.

The bill, however, includes a clause that would create a process to allow people who are currently renting a property that isn’t their primary residence to rent their home and one other property.

The Finance Department estimates the 9.5 percent tax could raise between $500,000 and $1 million a year. If the council approves the measure, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh would still need to sign it.

The council is still scheduled to vote on a measure aimed at improving lactation accommodations provided by employers in the city.

The bill calls on companies to establish policies to implement break times and designate certain rooms for mothers who need to pump breast milk for their babies.

Councilwoman Shannon Sneed, who has often brought her young daughter to public meetings, introduced the measure in August. Sneed said at the time that all working mothers “deserve the ability to lactate if they return to work by choice or by necessity.” Mothers, she said, shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and their child’s wellness

The proposed policy outlines higher standards for lactation spaces, which most employers already are required to provide under federal law. Sneed’s legislation calls for lactation spaces to be in “close proximity” to a new mother’s work space, have a door that can be locked from the inside and be equipped with a flat surface where a woman can put a breast pump or other personal items.

The space also must have a place to sit, an electrical outlet and a refrigerator where an employee can store breast milk.

The requirements build on federal statutes, which state that employers must provide a “clean, private space, other than a bathroom, for employees to express milk for their infants up to one year after each child’s birth.”

iduncan@baltsun.com

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