SB829 a fight between Sacramento and local control of our economy

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Guest Commentary
by Scott Crosby

Yesterday, the California State Assembly approved SB829 sponsored by the State Building & Construction Trades Unions. The bill is an attempt to limit state funds paid to any charter city that enacts restrictions on project labor agreements – including initiatives approved by charter city voters.  The bill has serious constitutional defects, and each charter city has some form of exemption that mitigates the risk of losing state funds, but the debate is a fascinating proxy fight between those who favor Sacramento’s control vs local control of our economy.  This five minute video of Assemblymember Shannon Grove during the debate is an example of what life is like in the Assembly for free market reformers in California.

While zero Democrats in the Assembly or Senate agree with Shannon, the voters do. In November 2010, San Diego County’s version of this fair and open competition ordinance passed with 76% of the vote and won every precinct in San Diego County. Shannon represents part of the Central Valley where fair and open competition in construction is considered the best value for the taxpayer.

Many thanks to our local Assembly Members Jones, Garrick, Fletcher, and Harkey, and Senators Anderson and Wyland, who oppose this type of legislation and defend the rights of charter cities to enact fiscal reforms.

See Assemblymember Martin Garrick’s U-T San Diego Op Ed on the issue.

See Assemblymember Brian Jones’ KUSI interview.

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Scott Crosby is President and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, San Diego Chapter. ABC has 74 chapters across the country representing 22,000 contractors.

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Comments 2

  1. http://www.pe.com/opinion/editorials-headlines/20120415-state-labor-largesse.ece

    “Labor largesse”
    THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE
    Published: 15 April 2012 01:00 AM

    Expanding a bad law would not make it better. The Legislature does not need to broaden its expensive interference in local public construction contracts. Legislators should instead repeal provisions that cost taxpayers in the name of special-interest pandering.
    SB 829, by Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, proposes to intrude on local decisions once again in order to benefit labor unions. Legislation last year effectively blocked general law cities and counties from banning union-friendly “project labor agreements” on public construction. The law imposed some less-stringent limits on charter cities, which have greater freedom to set their own rules. Rubio’s bill would in practice curb charter cities’ power to ban project labor agreements, by forbidding charter cities which have such bans from using state funds for any public construction project.

    Project labor agreements require all contractors — union and nonunion alike — to follow union rules and pay union fees and benefits. Several charter cities, including Oceanside and Fresno, have barred the use of these labor pacts, while San Diego has an initiative on the June ballot that would restrict such agreements.

    SB 829’s goal, however, is not better public contracting policy, but a political handout to Democrats’ labor union supporters. Unions like project labor agreements because the deals quash the competitive advantage that nonunion contractors often enjoy. But federal statistics show that less than one-fifth of California’s private construction workers are covered by union contracts. So these labor agreements effectively exclude most of the state’s construction work force — unless those contractors are willing to abide by union dictates.

    But that special-interest benefit comes at a big cost to taxpayers, who pay inflated prices for new construction. The Riverside Community College District, for example, will pay up to $1.6 million just to administer a project labor agreement the district board approved in 2010. That needless expense comes on top of any higher cost for using union workers, who usually have the highest labor costs around.

    Nor does the state have any legitimate reason to interfere in local decision making. Surely cities and counties have a better grasp of local contracting needs than the Legislature does. And the fact that voters approved some of the local prohibitions on project labor agreements does not faze legislators eager to curry favor with union interests.

    Unions and their legislative allies argue the pacts avoid construction slowdowns and labor disputes. But organized labor is the most likely group to cause any work stoppages or other disruptions. So the union-friendly pacts protect the public from … unions.

    California does not need more state requirements forcing local government to cater to union labor. The Legislature should not expand last year’s special-interest handout, but repeal it entirely. Cities and counties should be free to make their own decisions on contracts, and seek the best deal available on new construction — no matter who eventually gets the job.

  2. Let’s just keep giving Sacramento Special Interest Groups HUGE paybacks for keeping California solidly under the control of Democrats. So far it has worked out great.

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