In control for the first time since 1993, Democratic leadership in Virginia’s General Assembly is poised to pass legislation at the expense of Commonwealth taxpayers who finance the construction and maintenance of schools, affordable housing roads, bridges, transportation projects and other infrastructure projects in disrepair.
Legislation introduced by Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (SB 182) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (HB 358), will eliminate Virginia’s Fair and Open Competition statute restricting government-mandated project labor agreements, which will allow state and local governments to mandate PLAs on public works construction projects. Other bills by Sen. Scott Surovell (SB 995) and Del. Lopez (HB 1635) eliminate fair and open competition protections on Metrorail construction projects procured by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which would permit future PLA mandates on metro construction projects similar to the controversial failed attempt to mandate a PLA on Phase 2 of the Silver Line.
When mandated by governments, PLAs prevent nonunion contractors and subcontractors—which employ 97.8% of Virginia's construction workforce—from building and working on projects funded by taxpayer dollars. As a result, taxpayers can expect to pay 12% to 20% more on all government-mandated PLA projects.
Yesterday the Virginia Pilot published this op-ed by an ABC Virginia member in opposition to SB 182/HB 358 and in support of Virginia’s existing fair and open competition statute.
In addition, legislation introduced by Sen. Saslaw (SB 8) and Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (HB 833) would result in prevailing wage requirements on construction projects at non-market rates set by the U.S. Department of Labor, via the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. As amended, Sen Saslaw’s SB 8 sets a threshold of $250,000 on all state construction projects. And as amended, Del. Carroll Foy’s HB 833 requires prevailing wages on all state construction projects and allows localities to pass an ordinance requiring prevailing wages on local projects.
Research suggests prevailing wage regulations increase compliance and regulatory burdens on small businesses and increases construction costs from 10% to 25%.
The net impact of both of these bills is that it will lead to tax hikes or fewer public works construction projects procured by the Commonwealth and local governments. In addition, it will needlessly increase construction costs and steer contracts to out-of-state unionized businesses and unionized workers at the expense of Virginia’s construction industry and small, women- and minority-owned businesses.
Tuesday was Virginia’s legislative crossover deadline, and all six of these bills passed their chamber of origin. Both chambers must now pass their opposite chambers’ bills by the legislative session’s sine die adjournment March 7 in order to give Gov. Ralph Northam (D) 30 days to consider the legislation.
The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene on April 22 for the purpose of considering bills which may have been returned by the governor with a veto or recommendations for their amendment.
Virginia residents can contact their lawmakers through this easy-to-use ABC grassroots campaign. Alternatively, stakeholders can communicate to lawmakers with language from this message and email it to targeted House and Senate lawmakers.
Please share this news with colleagues and friends who will be negatively impacted by these controversial bills. Together, we can make keep Virginia competitive by educating lawmakers and the public about how these bills will increase costs and hurt the Commonwealth’s construction industry and economy.