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Baltimore City Council Sustains Scott’s Veto Of Surety Bonds Bill

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Baltimore Renters United hosted a rally in May, days before the mayor vetoed the bill. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

The Baltimore City Council adjourned Tuesday without taking up Mayor Brandon Scott’s veto of a bill that would have provided security deposit alternatives to renters, letting it stand.

Scott vetoed the bill in May at the eleventh hour. Though an overwhelming majority of the council voted for the bill in April, several council members have since changed course.

They include John Bullock, Phylicia Porter, Odette Ramos and James Torrence. They joined members Zeke Cohen and Ryan Dorsey, the only ones who voted against the bill when it was before the council in April, and Kristerfer Burnett, who abstained. The council would have needed 10 out of 15 members voting for an override.

For months, tenant advocates -- with Baltimore Renters United (BRU) at the helm -- organized in opposition to the bill, which they said was predatory and could hurt the low-income renters it was supposed to protect.

They took issue with surety bonds, which were listed in the bill as “security deposit insurance.”

One of those advocates was Marceline White, the executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

“Two months ago, it was not clear at all that we would be able to get the mayor's veto, nor to sustain it,” White told WYPR. “But I think what we're really seeing is the power of community based organizing in Baltimore.”

In a rally leading up to the mayor’s veto, White called the movement against the bill the “start of building a united progressive agenda.” She echoed that statement Tuesday.

“It provides a real opportunity to build,” White said. “You have this moment where people have come together. They’ve recognized what they're able to achieve, working together.”

More than 45 organizations joined BRU in opposing the bill, including the Baltimore Teachers Union, Organizing Black and the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP.

Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton sponsored the bill, which she’d called “renter’s choice” and said it would help renters struggling to pay their security deposits.

Earlier Tuesday, Middleton introduced an alternative solution: a new bill called the Emergency Security Deposit Relief Act. It aims to establish a temporary security deposit voucher program.