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Baltimore City Council passes measure requiring plan for local hiring from bidders on high-dollar contracts

Baltimore City Council passed a bill Monday that would require bidders on city contracts funded by at least $5 million in government money to submit a plan for how they would hire local residents.

The bill, which passed unanimously, would require bidders to submit a plan along with their bid detailing how they’ll meet the city’s local hiring requirements, as well as their strategy for hiring socially and economically disadvantaged people. Bidders would also be required to outline health and retirement benefits provided to employees on past projects.

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Those plans would then be analyzed by the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development and would count for 10% of a bidder’s score during the procurement process, according to the legislation, which Democratic Councilman Robert Stokes introduced in February.

Democratic Council President Nick Mosby, a supporter of the bill and a co-sponsor, said ahead of Monday’s vote that he was excited to see the legislation pass. Baltimore residents should be “first in line” for jobs funded by the city, he said.

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“It moves us in the right direction of providing real opportunity and real access for Baltimoreans to have real access to Baltimore’s jobs,” he said.

The bill passed despite opposition from the city’s finance department and concerns raised by employment development officials and the city’s law office. Some of those concerns were addressed by a series of amendments when it was considered by a council committee.

However, the bill still lacks a penalty for contractors who fail to comply. And while it would be effective 30 days after becoming law, city officials cautioned that would not give them enough time to enact the measure. A projection from the finance department said five new full-time employees would be needed at a cost of $393,406 annually to implement the requirements.

Other anticipated costs included upgrades to the city’s data tracking system at $13,000 annually, a one-time implementation cost of $10,000, and $7,800 for technology and office costs for the new employees, according to a memo prepared by the finance department.

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The bill still faces consideration from Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott. His staff did not respond to a question about the mayor’s position on the legislation.

Baltimore already has a local hiring law, enacted in 2013, that requires contractors awarded city contracts worth more than $300,000 and city-subsidized projects over $5 million to meet with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development within two weeks of an award to complete an employment analysis. Contractors are required to post jobs with the employment office within seven days and to ensure that at least 51% of new hires for city-funded contracts are city residents. Monthly employment reports are also required.

Jason Perkins-Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, he cautioned council members in a memo earlier this year that the bill may have additional unintended consequences, such as employers laying off qualified workers as they no longer meet the definition of economically or socially disadvantaged so the companies can score higher in the bidding process.

“Creating overly burdensome administrative requirements potentially diminishes the relationship building between employers and the public workforce system; which is contradictory to the intent of the legislation,” Perkins-Cohen wrote.

Stokes, who did not speak about the bill during Monday’s meeting, issued a brief statement afterward via Mosby’s spokeswoman, Yvonne Wenger.

“People in Baltimore are looking for the opportunities a good job can provide, like a steady paycheck, stable housing and the ability to provide for their families,” Stokes said. “This bill will help them get there.”

Council members also unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution Monday calling on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to extend the state’s moratorium on evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state order, which allowed tenants who were facing eviction to forestall losing their homes by explaining lost income due to the pandemic, expired Sunday.

Democratic Councilwoman Odette Ramos, who sponsored the resolution, said Baltimore officials have done their part to protect renters during the pandemic. The board expedited passage of the Monday’s resolution due to the expiration.

“This resolution is asking Governor Hogan to do his part on this crisis,” Ramos said.

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