Monday, June 3, 2013

Proposed Baltimore City Hiring Ordinance

             On Monday May 13, the Baltimore City Council unanimously approved a bill designed to promote hiring within the city.  The proposed ordinance requires any company undertaking a city contract worth $300,000 or greater, and any project receiving more than $5 million, to employ at least 51 percent of its work force from Baltimore City.  Businesses that fail to comply with the hiring mandate would face a one-year ban on receiving city contracts and a $500 fine.  Waivers could be obtained for companies who are located and perform the contracts outside the city, and for companies that are unable to find enough skilled residents despite a good faith effort on the part of the company to hire within the city.

 The bill’s proponent, City Council President Jack C. Young, cites Baltimore’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate as the rationale for the bill.  Young points to cities, such as Boston and San Francisco, that have implemented similar ordinances as models that Baltimore should follow.  Local civic organizations, including the Job Opportunities Task Force, Associated Black Charities, and the Baltimore Jewish Council, have voiced their support for the bill.

             The legislation has been criticized by the city’s legal department for being unconstitutional.  In memos to the city council, the city solicitor cites federal case law that suggests the bill would violate the Privileges and Immunities clause for discriminating against citizens of another state.  Other critics claim that comparisons to the Boston and San Francisco ordinances are misplaced because Baltimore’s ordinance is much more sweeping.  Critics further opine that the success of the San Francisco ordinance is undetermined because the law is so new, and the Boston ordinance has not lived up to expectations.

            In response to bill’s critics, proponents claim the constitutionality of the bill is uncertain because neither the Boston nor the San Francisco ordinance have been challenged.  Furthermore, the failed expectations of the Boston ordinance was due to lax enforcement.  Regarding the sweeping nature of the proposed legislation, proponents claim the bill is more akin to an East Palo Alto, CA ordinance, which was passed in 2000 and has not been held unconstitutional.

            Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake has taken steps in the past to encourage contractors to hire within the city.  She is reserving her decision to sign or veto the bill until she has seen a final version or the proposed ordinance.

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