A city council bill to mandate the hiring of Baltimore residents appears poised to take effect June 24. The measure, sponsored by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, will require contractors with $300,000 in city contracts or $5 million in city subsidies to hire Baltimore residents for 51 percent of all new jobs.
Facing a city government legal department ruling that the measure would violate the U.S. Constitition, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been silent about enacting the measure. According to Young spokesman Lester Davis, the mayor will neither sign nor veto the bill, which cleared the council June 3.
As a result, the bill takes effect, said Young, “three city council meetings after it is approved, even without the mayor’s signature.”
After the city council approved the local hiring bill on June 3, Young released a statement that he is pleased that his colleagues decided to put the needs of the Baltimore’s “unemployed” and “underemployed” residents first.
“Tonight’s passage of this landmark bill represents a renewed sense of hope for the countless families who continue to struggle to pay for basic necessities,” said Young in a statement. “I look forward to working with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on the law’s implementation.”
The bill sparked controversy in January when the Baltimore City Law Department issued a statement questioning the constitutionality of the bill, stating it violated the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The clause bars government policy that directs or encourages preferences based on residency in a city and states that discrimination against workers based on residence would only survive scrutiny if the court found that non-residents were the cause of the local unemployment rate.
Baltimore City Solicitor George Nilson said there are other mandates the city could propose that would be effective in promoting citywide employment within the scope of the constitution. He said he proposed a preference in favor of lower income employees or people at or below the poverty line.
Minority contractors associations also raised questions on how subcontractors would be affected by the legislation since small businesses often bid for subcontracts often based on their ability to ramp up their workforce. If they are also subject to the local hiring bill, they may not be able to compete for those contracts.
According to a provision in the bill, which was insisted upon by the Rawlings-Blake, the measure will not go into effect until six months after it is initiated.
Brian Freeman, communications director for the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED), said the six-month provision gives the city time to create the forms needed to implement the bill.