City Council President Nick Mosby today let his prized security deposit alternatives (“Rhino”) bill go down in defeat, choosing not to try to override Mayor Brandon Scott’s veto.
But it was not before, according to three members of the Council, he transmitted a not-so-veiled message to the person who, in his eyes, had tipped the scales against him.
Just hours before this afternoon’s virtual meeting, with the agenda set and bills ready for passage, Mosby let it be known that one particular bill – Imari’s LGBTQ Procurement Preference Act (21-0033) – would be pulled from the floor and sent back to committee for further study.
(The bill is named in memory of Imari Prout, a Black trans man and construction worker who died by suicide at age 23.)
“That’s a polite way to kill a bill and slap the sponsor in the face,” said a person well-versed in City Hall politics.
The sponsor in this case was Odette Ramos, whose announcement two weeks ago that she would sustain Scott’s veto of the Rhino bill put the final nail in Mosby’s ambitions.
The Council president today addressed his prior fury about Scott’s veto by praising Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton for defending the legislation, which a wide array of advocacy groups called a sop to a hedge fund-backed company that preys on poor renters.
“I saw how hard you’ve worked to provide security deposit relief for Baltimore City renters. I saw you fight through all the rhetoric and disinformation spewed out there about all the hard work that you’ve done,” Mosby said.
When the meeting got to the LGBTQ bill championed by Ramos, Councilman Mark Conway requested its return to his Public Safety and Government Operations Committee.
“Some information that had not been considered in committee” now needed to be aired, Conway said, citing concern about a “fiscal note” by the Finance Department that had, in fact, delivered its report on the bill in March.
The motion was quickly seconded by Councilman Robert Stokes.
“I want to urge the Council not to bring it back to committee,” Ramos retorted. “We didn’t hear about these concerns before because we’ve answered them. They’re not a problem anymore.”
The Ayes Have It
What happened next almost exactly mirrored how the votes were expected to go down if Mosby had tried to override Scott’s veto – eight in favor, six opposed and one abstention.
While eight “ayes” aren’t enough to override a mayoral veto – 10 votes are needed – they’re enough to take the unusual step of sending a committee-approved bill back to committee.
Eight “ayes” aren’t enough to override a mayoral veto, but they’re enough to send a committee-approved bill back to committee.
Those joining Mosby in favor of “recommitting” Bill 21-033 to committee were Middleton, Conway and Stokes, plus Eric Costello, Yitzy Schleifer, Danielle McCray and Antonio Glover.
Those joining Ramos in opposition were John Bullock, Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey, Kristerfer Burnett and Phylicia Porter. James Torrence abstained.
6/9/21 UPDATE: Councilman Conway sent a statement to us today, which is printed in full below.
Mosby: No Response
As a frustrated councilperson, who asked not to be identified, vented after the meeting, “There has been at least two work sessions. There have been multiple agency reports. Every process a bill can go through has been met. There’s no reason to return the LGBTQ bill to committee except to punish Odette for her vote on the Rhino surety bond bill.”
Another said that while he had not gotten calls from Mosby’s office to support Conway’s motion, other members did.
Mosby’s office has not responded to questions about why the Council president pulled the bill and whether he supports LGBTQ rights as part of his frequent calls for “equity.”
But Ramos did speak.
Ramos: “We’ll get this done”
The bill, she said, would codify a 2018 executive order by former Mayor Catherine Pugh to set up eligibility requirements, certification and an affirmative procurement program for LGBTQ-owned business similar to those for minority and women-owned businesses.
“I didn’t think this bill would be a big deal,” she said, but learned otherwise after it was voted out of committee on May 26 – or two days after she announced her decision on the Rhino override.
“I’ve been in conversations with the Council president’s office, the chair and the law department,” she said, refusing to characterize today’s vote as “punishment,” as her colleague described it.
“I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the issues, about helping people and equity,” she said.
Asked how she plans to advocate for the bill, she said, “I’m taking on good faith that we’ll get this done. That the chair will schedule another work session. That we’ll get everyone’s concerns out in the open and then have the committee vote it out.”
6/9/21: Conway pledges to schedule hearing and committee vote on bill “soon”
“This article, for which I was not asked to comment on prior to or after publication, does not accurately reflect my reasoning for offering the motion to recommit. I made the motion to allow concerns regarding the legislation to be understood in the appropriate forum before we move forward.
“Concerns were raised following the May 26 vote about the ability of MWBOO to implement 21-0033, legal issues with implementation of the bill in its current form, and committee amendments not having been reviewed by all agencies prior to adoption.
“Rather than having those conversations behind closed doors, I asked the Council to allow the committee to have another work session to discuss these issues openly.
“I regret that we were not able to hear these issues before the initial committee vote and that this process has become a distraction from the important work of advancing LGBTQ rights and issues in Baltimore.
“I voted for this bill originally in committee and have pledged to Councilwoman Ramos that I will schedule another hearing and vote soon.”