The Greater Baltimore Committee is urging the Baltimore City Council not to pass what private-sector leaders say is well-intentioned but flawed legislation before the council to promote local hiring by businesses performing city contracts, GBC President & CEO Donald C. Fry announced May 22.
The GBC’s board of directors voted to oppose legislation proposed by City Council President Jack Young and sponsored by more than a dozen council members mandating city residents comprise at least 51 percent of new hires working for private-sector contractors on city projects, said Fry.
The legislation, which is poised for a final council vote as early as June 3, would apply to any business having a contract with the city for more than $300,000 or businesses that are receiving more than $5 million in assistance, such as payments in lieu of taxes or tax increment financing, for a city-subsidized project.
“We support the goal,” Fry said. “But this legislation, as currently proposed, is not a constructive way to achieve it.”
A major flaw of the bill is it would not withstand a Constitutional challenge, Fry said. City Solicitor George Nilson has advised the City Council that the U.S. Supreme Court has specifically rejected all legislation that bases hiring preferences on local residency.
“It is reasonable to expect that projects that receive city taxpayer funding provide an opportunity to encourage the hiring of city residents. However, any such program must pass Constitutional muster,” said Fry.
Constitutionality aside, GBC leaders cite other significant problems with the bill. First, it includes provisions to impose criminal penalties on non-complying employers. Also, the bill would impose requirements for detailed monthly reports to city employment development administrators that would prove burdensome for both the employers and administrators, Fry said.
Rather than “rushing to pass flawed legislation,” Fry urged the City Council to instead look for ways to build on workforce development initiatives currently underway, involving employers, nonprofits and labor. As a result of one such program launched by the Mayor’s Office, “Employ Baltimore,” 38 percent of employees hired by employers to work on city contracts since the program began in 2011 have been city residents.
“That’s three-quarters of the way to the 51 percent goal the City Council is seeking,” said Fry. He urged the council to abandon “arbitrary and punitive mandates” in favor of a “constructive and inclusive” approach to increasing employment opportunities for city residents.
The GBC stands ready to work with the City Council on crafting “legally acceptable” legislation to promote hiring city residents for city-funded projects, Fry wrote in a letter to Young and members of the City Council.