Gov. Asa Hutchison is the 18th governor since January 2011 to sign legislation or an executive order banning wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) mandates on taxpayer-funded construction projects.
Arkansas is one of 21 states in total that limit the ability of public entities to require contractors to enter into a PLA as a condition of performing work on taxpayer-funded construction.
The governor signed S.B. 426, the Fair and Open Competition in Governmental Construction Act, on March 23. This bill codifies an executive order issued by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) in 2005 that banned PLA mandates on construction projects with state financial support. The General Assembly passed S.B. 426 with unanimous, bipartisan support.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and ABC of Arkansas issued a press release celebrating the new law shortly after the governor signed the bill. Here are the highlights, with our emphasis added:
A PLA is a job-specific union collective bargaining agreement, which effectively steers construction contracts to unionized firms and their all-union workforces. When mandated on publicly funded construction projects, PLAs make it nearly impossible for the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses to join a union to compete fairly for projects funded by their own tax dollars. In Arkansas, more than 97 percent of the private construction workforce chooses not to join a labor organization.
“PLAs discourage competition by arbitrarily cutting out many qualified contractors and their skilled craft professionals from bidding on projects funded by their own tax dollars,” said ABCAR President Bill Roachell. “By encouraging all qualified bidders in Arkansas, regardless of labor affiliation, to bid on taxpayer-funded projects, the legislature and Gov. Hutchinson are sending a clear, bipartisan message that these special interest handouts to union bosses are not welcome in Arkansas.”
“This bipartisan, common sense legislation will codify an executive order that since 2005 has ensured that Arkansas taxpayers get the best possible return on their tax dollars,” said ABC Director of State and Local Affairs Andy Conlin. “The unanimous passage of this important legislation by the state legislature and today’s action by Gov. Hutchinson clearly demonstrate the ever-growing bipartisan consensus that PLA mandates are bad public policy.”
President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2009 encouraging the use of PLAs on public construction projects, since the order, 18 states have banned mandatory PLAs. The bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives 84-0 on March 17 and the Senate 33-0 on Feb. 26 and will codify Executive Order 05-09 issued by former Gov. Huckabee on July 21, 2005.
A broad, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in Arkansas supported this legislation. While dysfunction continues to reign in Washington, D.C., Democrats and Republicans are coming together at the state level to stand up for taxpayers and the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union.
This isn’t only true in Arkansas. The West Virginia Legislature passed similar legislation with bipartisan support as well. This bill is awaiting action by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D), who signed legislation early this month to dramatically reform West Virginia’s prevailing wage.
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we expect state leaders to continue reforming state construction procurement to ensure taxpayers are getting the best construction at the best price.