Baltimore City to Hold Charter Vote on Small Business Procurement Program

Baltimore City residents will vote in November on a charter amendment that would guide city procurement contracts towards small businesses based within the city.

As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

City Councilwoman Helen Holton — lead sponsor of a charter amendment that would authorize a new program to help small local companies — said the measure would build Baltimore’s economy and reward business owners who stay in the city, despite taxes and fees that are higher than in surrounding areas.

“What are we going to do to help businesses in Baltimore?” Holton said. “If you can hire a few more people because you’re getting more contracts, it’s helping you to create capacity and to grow.”

The charter amendment, if approved, would do little more than allow the city to create a program. Holton has filed a separate, wide-ranging bill before the council that lays out the specifics, including how contracts would be approved.

The program would be open to businesses that generate at least half of their sales out of Baltimore offices. Companies also must have no more than 50 employees to qualify, among other requirements.

It would be run by the Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office, which says the program would cost the city at least $250,000 a year to administer. Contracts for the small local companies would not be determined based on race or gender.

The article notes that while the Mayor will not veto the charter amendment, she and others in her administration have expressed some concerns:

Rawlings-Blake said she is not convinced the legislation guards against “unintended consequences” that could come from authorizing a program without fully evaluating the long-term impact on city commerce. A greater review of how the proposed program fits into other initiatives is needed, she said.

City lawyers argue the program violates constitutional protections for open commerce and could encourage retaliatory laws in other places, according to the solicitor’s office.

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.