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WECA Political Update March 30, 2023

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Construction Employment Increases in 45 States Construction employment increased in 45 states in February compared with a year ago, according to an analysis of federal employment data by the Associated General Contractors of America. Texas saw the largest number of jobs added, increasing by 37,900, or 5 percent, from February 2022 to February 2023. Utah grew 7.3 percent (9,400). West Virginia saw the largest drop, losing 2,200 jobs, or 6.5 percent, over that period. From January to February, construction employment increased in 24 states, held steady in six, and declined in 20, and Washington, D.C. “Unfavorable weather may have held back construction in many states last month compared to January,” said Ken Simonson, the AGC chief economist. “But construction employment continued to expand almost everywhere in February compared to a year ago, despite a slump in homebuilding.” For the month, construction employment increased in 24 states, held steady in six states, and declined in 20 states and D.C. California added the most jobs over the month (7,600 jobs, 0.8 percent), followed by Texas (2,600 jobs, 0.3 percent), New Jersey (4,000 jobs, 2.5 percent) and Minnesota (2,200 jobs, 1.7 percent). The largest percentage gain occurred in Minnesota and Rhode Island (1.7 percent, 400 jobs), followed by North Dakota (1.5 percent, 400 jobs) and Mississippi (1.5 percent, 700 jobs). Story

California Seeks to Ban Criminal Background Checks for Most Private Sector Employers Existing California law regulates inquiries into and using criminal history information in hiring and personnel decisions. Existing California law also substantially impedes the ability of employers (and background check companies) to obtain such information from public records. However, the existing restrictions pale compared to draconian restrictions proposed earlier this year. On February 17, 2023, two state senators introduced Senate Bill 809 (SB 809) to replace one of California's primary laws with the “Fair Chance Act of 2023.”1 SB 809 is currently pending review by the Senate Judiciary Committee and contains eight sections, the primary ones summarized below. Because the bill seeks outright to ban criminal background checks by most private sector employers, employers should monitor the progress of this bill in Sacramento. Story

From Our Friends at CFEC Here are the latest PLA threats in Sandy Ego that you should be fighting:

·        City of La Mesa - all work

·        Oceanside USD - $160 million Measure W school bond

·        La Mesa-Spring Valley School District - $136 million Measure V school bond

Please let CFEC know if you are interested in helping fight one or all of these PLAs!

Utah Enacts Laws Allowing Employers to Obtain Workplace Violence Protective Orders and Restricting Use of Vaccination or Immunity Status in Employment Decisions Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox signed H.B. 324 into law amending Utah’s protective order statute to allow employers to petition for and obtain workplace violence protective orders against an individual who has engaged in or threatened potential workplace violence. The law will become effective on July 1, 2023. He also signed H.B. 131, which prohibits employers, government entities, and places of public accommodation from using an individual’s immunity status as a restriction. The law goes into effect on May 3, 2023.

Wyoming Passes Fair and Open Competition Act for Construction SF 147 – The Fair and Open Competition Act – was passed by the Wyoming legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Gordon. SF 147 protects Wyoming taxpayers by ensuring that all of the state’s skilled construction workforce can compete on a level playing field for contracts to build state, state-assisted and local public works projects. Once in effect on July 1, Wyoming will be the 25th state with an active policy restricting the use of government-mandated project labor agreements. Story

And because there is always bad with the good: Michigan Governor Repeals Right-to-Work Law, Reinstates Prevailing Wage Rules Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law S.B. 34 and H.B. 4007, which respectively repeal the state’s right-to-work protections and reinstates prevailing wage requirements for public construction projects. The actions reward labor unions’ substantial financial and political contributions to Michigan Democrats’ unified state governmental control and garnered significant opposition from ABC of Michigan, the wider business community, and Republican lawmakers. Michigan enacted right-to-work laws in 2013, and state Democrats have long sought restoration of organized labor’s power to compel dues payments from nonunion workers despite the fact that Michigan voters’ overwhelming opposition to a constitutional amendment advanced for that purpose by the United Auto Workers beginning in 2012. Story

Last Year’s Labor Fights Are Back in Sacramento Two hotly contested housing bills by Sen. Scott Wiener got their first hearings, revisiting familiar arguments about labor provisions and the urgent need to construct affordable housing in California. At issue are provisions that the State Building and Construction Trades Council (BTC) insists upon, particularly the requirement that trained and skilled workers (S&TWF) build new housing projects. The group has torpedoed housing legislation without S&TWF, but lawmakers reached a rare deal involving a dual-bill solution last year. Senate Bill 423 by Wiener would make permanent a 2017 law meant to cut through red tape around construction projects in cities and counties that aren’t meeting state housing plan requirements. But it would do so without the “trained and skilled” requirement for workers. Instead, it would require employees to be paid a prevailing wage based on their field and location, in addition to requiring health care on larger projects. That has the resounding support of the carpenters’ unions and various YIMBY groups, who say the prevailing wage and health care requirements are preferable to strict labor rules that can slow down much-needed construction. But the BTC says it will hurt workers and create unsafe structures. “We oppose this as a matter of principle,” said Sara Flocks, the California Labor Federation's legislative and strategic campaigns director, standing with the BTC in opposition. “It is unacceptable to strip labor protections and labor standards from any worker in California.” Similar arguments were at the heart of Wiener’s other bill, Senate Bill 4, which would streamline housing construction on property owned by religious organizations and institutions of higher education. Both bills passed the Senate housing committee, but much remains to be settled. Many members, including the author, expressed a desire for compromise. But Wiener expressed frustration at the opponents’ reluctance to negotiate, saying, “It takes two to tango.” Sen. Anna Caballero was among those who said she wanted to see the disagreement resolved. “I want to hope that there’s a sweet spot where we can get to ‘yes,’” she said. “I don’t want to kill housing bills because we can’t agree.”

Arizona lawmakers are considering a bill to reduce taxes for startup businesses. On March 14, the Arizona Senate voted to pass bill SB1559 to reduce taxes for startups and new businesses with an attenuated tax reduction over the course of the first three years in operation, starting with full exemption in the first year, 50 percent in the second year and 25 percent in the third year. Story

Tackling Salt Lake City’s Affordable Housing Crisis with Empathy and Accountability What’s in a name? Until last year, Tony Milner was director of Salt Lake City’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Division. Now it’s the Department of Housing Stability. Milner said that the city changed the name to signal that affordable and available housing “is the generational challenge” that Salt Lake City and most U.S. cities are facing. Story

Utah Governor Signs Bill Adopting New State Flag, Veto Referendum Filed Against It Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed Senate Bill 31 (SB 31), establishing a new state flag, on March 21. The new flag below will become official on March 9, 2024. The current state flag, adopted on March 9, 1911, and shown below, will be called the historic state flag.

Proposed new Utah state flag

Current Utah state flag

Voters, however, might have the chance to weigh in. On March 6, after the Legislature approved SB 31, a campaign called the 2023 Utah Flag Referendum filed a veto referendum against the bill. The campaign has until April 12 to gather 134,298 valid signatures. If successful, SB 31 will be put on hold until voters decide whether to adopt the new flag on Nov. 5, 2024. This would be the fifth veto referendum in Utah’s state history. Two veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 1954, one in 1975, and one in 2007. In all cases, voters repealed the targeted law. Utah is the latest state to attempt a flag redesign. In 2020, Mississippi voters approved a statewide measure adopting a new state flag with 73 percent of the vote.

The five states that redesigned their flags before Mississippi are:

  • Louisiana - 2006
  • Georgia - 2003
  • South Dakota - 1992
  • Nevada - 1991
  • Florida - 1985

Click this link to see each state’s current flag:

California may have a budget deficit, but a plan to repay Black residents for generations of discrimination could cost $800 billion, economists have told the panel considering the payments. Story

Author (Wife of former Legislator/Supervisor) of Plagiarized Book Will Keep $1 Million in Tax Dollars from Santa Clara County Despite discovering that she plagiarized much of her writing, Jean McCorquodale will keep the $1 million given to her by Santa Clara County to write a book about the county’s history, the San Jose Mercury News reported on March 13. McCorquodale, a former county employee and the wife of former Santa Clara County Supervisor and state Senator Dan McCorquodale, was awarded a no-bid contract in 2018 to write a history of the county. The county said she was selected because of her “unique and unparalleled knowledge of the county’s history and leadership,” the Mercury News stated. After McCorquodale turned in her 580-page manuscript – two years after her deadline – the Mercury News studied the writing. It determined that approximately 20 percent was copied nearly word-for-word from Wikipedia and other sources. The history project has been scrapped, but the $1 million payment will not be returned. County Counsel James Williams told the Mercury News that the only option for the county would be to file a contract dispute that could cost the county more than $1 million. McCorquodale was a grant writer for the county. Since 2009, the county has paid her company more than $2.5 million.