Busy Agenda As Philadelphia City Council Meets For Year’s Final Session

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia city council has a full agenda as it meets for the final time this year, considering bills on pension reform, wage discrimination, predatory towing and a charter change referendum on awarding city contracts.

There are more than 60 bills on the calendar for final passage. Many may be held; they can still be voted on next year.

But among those likely to be voted on, the three bills setting up the charter change referendum are proving controversial.

The charter change, if passed by voters, would allow the city to award contracts based on “best value,” rather than the current, more quantifiable “lowest responsible bidder.”

Kenney administration officials advocating for the bills say most cities now use best value criteria, because they provide the flexibility to consider a bidder’s record on such goals as diversity and local hiring.

Though the bills sailed through a council committee with no opposition, critics have recently emerged, warning the measure opens the door to influence peddling and cronyism, since the criteria would be less objective.

Also likely to pass, today, is a bill intended to shore up the city’s pension plan.

The Kenney administration has a strategy to get the plan– which is less than half funded– up to 80 percent funded over the next 13 years but it requires higher contributions from beneficiaries.

The first step was getting city workers represented by District Council 33 to agree to a two-tiered system so new hires pay more. Council is expected to approve that arrangement, today, along with reforms to the controversial DROP system that provides lump sum payments to those who “retire,” but then come back to work.

The council president is also expected to introduce a bill extending those changes to other new hires, which finance director Rob Dubow says is essential.

“Part of that plan is having all city employees participate in the pension reforms so having a bill that includes all (non-represented and exempt employees and elected officials) is a big step toward that,” he says.

Dubow says the city would then try to negotiate the changes in contract talks with police, fire and city workers represented by District Council 47.

Another bill scheduled for a final vote is a measure to prohibit employers from asking about a job applicant’s wage history, as way to help historically disenfranchised groups overcome past wage discrimination.

Also on the agenda, a bill that would require that cars be ticketed before they can be towed. That’s intended to stop predatory towing practices such as towing cars from spaces that are not clearly marked as tow-away zones.

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