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Minnesota Legislature

Hiring residents for city projects

Published (2/20/2009)
By Nick Busse
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Cities would be encouraged to hire their own residents for public works projects, under a bill that has cleared two committees.

Sponsored by Rep. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Mpls), HF644 would permit cities to require contractors to hire either a certain number or percentage of their residents for city projects. They could also specify a number or percentage of “low-income residents,” as defined by the cities, that contractors must hire.

The House Local Government Division approved the bill Feb. 16, and the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee approved it on Feb. 18.

Speaking Feb. 16, Champion said that although cities can already require contractors to hire residents, passing his bill would encourage an expanded use of the practice by setting “guiding principles” for cities to follow.

Roosevelt Gaines, a trade specialist with the Minneapolis Urban League, said cities often set goals for hiring residents that contractors ultimately never meet. He said passage of the bill would “send a message” to local governments about making contractors include people from the community on local construction projects.

Critics of the proposal include Rep. Rob Eastlund (R-Isanti), who said that where workers live “should not necessarily be the predominant characteristic” of whether they can be hired for a project. He added that projects involving public dollars should focus on hiring the most efficient workforce — not necessarily the most local one.

Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) criticized the bill as being unnecessary arguing that local governments can already do what the bill would authorize them to do. He tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to have it apply only to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The bill now goes to the House Finance Committee. A companion, SF536, sponsored by Sen. Linda Higgins (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

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