FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill that would prohibit public agencies from mandating agreements between labor unions and contractors vying for public works projects has passed the Kentucky House.
HB 135 was amended by the House and sent to the Senate on a vote of 50-44 following floor debate on whether public agencies should be allowed to require contractors on public works projects to enter into “project labor agreements,” or PLAs, with organized labor. HB 135 Rep. Phillip Pratt, R-Georgetown, said the bill would make taxpayer-funded contracts more competitive and fair.
HB 135 “will create conditions for all of Kentucky’s skilled labor and qualified contractors to compete on a level playing field,” said Pratt.
Only public works projects that present “special circumstances (requiring) an exemption to avert an imminent threat to public health or safety” would be exempt from the requirements of HB 135, the bill states.
Twenty four other states have passed legislation similar to HB 135, according to testimony on the bill before the House Local Government Committee last week.
Voting against the bill was Rep. Jeffery Donohue, D-Fairdale, who told the House that Kentucky has never mandated a project labor agreement on public works projects. He called HB 135 “a solution searching for a problem.”
“The reason we’re having this discussion is because this legislation is trying to put labor in what is considered ‘their place,’” said Donohue. He said PLAs are an option available to the public and private sectors, but are mainly a private sector tool. Toyota, he said, has used PLAs on their major construction projects for over three decades.
Voting in favor of the bill was Rep. Michael Meredith, R-Oakland, who said HB 135 will make sure any qualified contractor in Kentucky can bid on a public works contract, whether they are a union shop or not.
“Passing this bill will allow us to open up the process so we truly can see in every situation—whether it’s Louisville, Lexington, Paducah, Bowling Green, our school districts across the commonwealth—we can make sure they get the lowest and the best bid so that our taxpayers get the best bang for their buck,” said Meredith.
HB 135 now goes to the Senate for consideration.