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City Council Passes Bill To Make Contractors Create Local Hiring Plans, Considers Solar Panel Tax Credit

Solar panels sit on the roof of a home. On Monday, Councilman John Bullock introduced a bill to create a property tax credit for city homeowners who power their dwellings with solar energy or geothermal energy devices.

Baltimore City Council members introduced a bill to create a property tax credit for solar energy devices and passed legislation that would require city contractors to create local hiring plans for projects over $5 million during a Monday night meeting.

Councilman John Bullock introduced the solar energy bill, which he said will kill “a couple birds with one stone.”

“We look at it from an environmental point of view in terms of encouraging folks to install things like solar panels, but also to get some relief on their property taxes,” the Democrat said. “Quite frankly, it also puts us in better competition with our surrounding county, Baltimore County, which has a similar law in place.”

The credit would amount to either 50% of the costs of installing eligible solar energy or geothermal energy devices, or $5,000 for solar energy or geothermal energy devices that power heating systems or $1,500 for devices that power hot water supply systems — whichever is cheaper. The credit amount cannot exceed a dwelling’s property tax.

Council President Nick Mosby assigned the bill to the Ways and Means Committee.

The lawmakers unanimously passed a bill to require city contractors bidding on projects with costs of $5 million or more to include local hiring plans in their applications. The legislation, spearheaded by Councilman Robert Stokes, requires Department of Finance officials to weigh the employment plan as 10% of a bid’s score.

“Millions of dollars come through the Board of Estimates and become contracts every single year,” Council President Mosby said. "Our folks should be first in line to have access to some of those jobs.”

Winning bidders must resubmit a final employment plan to the Department of Finance, which must include a projection of the total number of hours of work a project will require and how many of those hours will be worked by city residents, as well as a strategy to hire city residents.

The all-Democratic Council passed a slew of resolutions, including one that calls on Gov. Larry Hogan to extend the eviction moratorium. The Republican let Maryland’s ban on evictions expire on Sunday, along with a state of emergency tied to the coronavirus pandemic. Another resolution from Councilman Zeke Cohen called on Congress to pass the Anti-Digital Redlining Act, which would allow the Federal Communications Committee to investigate internet service providers for allegations of discriminating against low-income communities.

The council approved Mayor Brandon Scott’s nominees to the Local Control Advisory Board. City voters will decide as early as 2022 whether the Baltimore Police Department should move from state to city control; the board will make recommendations to Scott and other lawmakers about the potential change.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.