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Delegates Comstock and Hugo Introduce "Fair And Open Competition In Government Contracting Act"
Monday, December 19, 2011

For Immediate Release:
December 19, 2011

Contact: Delegate Tim Hugo - delthugo@house.virginia.gov

                Delegate Barbara Comstock - delbcomstock@house.virginia.gov
                  


McLean, VA -
 This week, Delegate Barbara Comstock (R-34th) and Majority Caucus Chairman, Delegate Tim Hugo (R-40th) introduced the Fair and Open Competition in Government Contracting Act (HB33).  HB 33 prohibits Virginia and recipients of state funding of assistance from requiring or prohibiting contractors to enter into union agreements, such as a project labor agreement (PLA), as a condition of winning any state-assisted contraction contracts. 

Delegates Comstock and Hugo released the following statement: 

 

"This commonsense legislation will help us stretch our tax dollars on infrastructure projects and will guarantee that free enterprise and full and open competition will determine how public construction contracts are awarded throughout Virginia.  Mandated project labor agreements have been estimated to raise costs by 10 percent to 20 percent or more with the most egregious example being Boston's "Big Dig" debacle.  This measure will help protect our taxpayers and our constituents.  

 

"This is a modest proposal.  Similar measures already have been passed in 11 states as diverse as Louisiana and Michigan.  This bill will ensure that the 96 percent of the Virginia private construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union has a fair opportunity to compete for projects fundedwith our tax dollars.  This bill will also renew our commitment to the spirit of our right to work law that makes Virginia the #1 place to do business.

 

"There is broad opposition to PLA mandates.  The attempts to mandate PLAs on Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail Project has generated broad bipartisan opposition which includes eight of the 11 members of our congressional delegation including Congressman Frank Wolf and Majority Leader Eric Cantor;  the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors; the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors;  the Virginia Chamber of Commerce; the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce;  the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce; the Purcellville Business and Professional Association; a coalition of 13 of Northern Virginia's leading business groups and associations; the Virginia Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors; Women Construction Owners and Executives; and many of our local, state and elected officials.  A reduction of two or three bidders because of MWAA's PLA mandate could increase costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on the final Phase 2 construction costs and put incredible burdens on our state and local budgets. 

 

"Earlier this year, The Washington Post editorial board opposed a PLA mandate in the "Containing costs on the Silver Line" editorial:

 

Even if an agreement on costs is struck, the Silver Line should remain under scrutiny as one of the nation's costliest infrastructure projects. One focus should be the airport board's insistence that any general contractor bidding on the project be bound by a pro-union labor agreement...

 

The airports board was pushed to adopt the "project labor agreement" by board member Dennis Martire, who, in his day job, is a senior official in the Laborers' International Union of North America, which represents hundreds of thousands of construction workers.  Mr. Martire had an obvious conflict of interest, as his union would be a direct and major beneficiary from a labor deal...

 

There is serious debate about whether a labor pact would drive up expenses. The airports authority says a similar pact for the project's first phase, under construction from Falls Church to Reston, has helped contain costs and enhance efficiency by ensuring a steady supply of workers and avoiding labor trouble.  But that agreement was adopted voluntarily by the contractor.  There are concerns that a mandatory labor agreement for the second phase could dampen competition and drive up costs by discouraging bids from some large contractors, and by imposing cumbersome union rules.

 

"The Silver Line PLA controversy is not the first time that there have been attempts to force PLAs on Virginia businesses and workers. About a decade ago there was a PLA controversy about the Wilson Bridge when the project was temporarily subjected to a union-favoring PLA requirement by former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening in 2000. After the PLA was imposed, only one bidder responded to the RFP for the bridge superstructure contract, at a bid price more than $370 million above the state's engineering estimates-a 78 percent cost overrun. Eventually, the Wilson Bridge contract was broken up and rebid into three smaller contracts free from mandated PLAs. Multiple bids were then received and the winning bids came in significantly below the engineering estimates and resulted in on-time and on-budget construction by both  union and merit shop firms.  Similarly opening Phase 2 of the Silver Line to real fair and open competition free from government-mandated PLAs can reduce costs.

 

"If those proponents of PLAs truly believe what they say when they claim that PLAs make the project better and can reduce costs, than those bidders who engage in free and open competition can then prove that point by submitting a winning proposal.  Since this bill provides neutrality, the market will determine who is the best deal for taxpayers. 

 

"Taxpayers should not have the costs of infrastructure projects increased because of union mandates on this or any state project and this legislation will ensure that is the case.  HB 33 will keep the government neutral with respect to a qualified contractor's relationship with labor unions in all projects.  Companies can still voluntarily enter these agreements but they cannot be forced upon them and their employees.  This will increase the creation of Virginia jobs, increase competition and provide our taxpayers with more miles of transportation and infrastructure solutions for every dollar we spend."

 

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