Bill to remove prevailing wage from school buildings takes brutal beating in House committee

03/06/2014 06:24 PM

House Republicans got their wish to get a committee vote Thursday on a bill to repeal the prevailing wage requirement on school buildings, but it didn’t end well for them.

Democrats beat it back as the measure got just one yes vote, and Democrat after Democrat blasted the bill saying it would lower wages for construction workers.

Only Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, was left to defend the bill — and vote yes. Of the four other Republicans who attended the Labor and Industry Committee meeting, Rep. Toby Herald left before the vote, Reps. Regina Bunch and Lynn Bechler passed and Rep. Jim Stewart voted no.

Here’s how the vote went:

The prevailing wage law requires that construction workers on public projects — including state and local governments and school districts — be paid a certain rate using regional averages. That wage is calculated by a state labor board.

The bill, House Bill 419, got off to a rough start as its sponsor, Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, didn’t attend.

Koenig, who was left to defend the bill, said Hoover was “under the weather,” but that left Hoover open to attack from Senate President Pro Tem Larry Clark, a retired union electrician.

Koenig and Hoover’s spokesman, Michael Goins, also said the union members who packed into the committee room had five days notice about the hearing while Hoover only learned of it earlier this week.

With no one to testify in favor of the measure, the floor largely belonged to the expert unions brought in from the University of Utah.

Peter Philips, professor of economics at the University of Utah, cited research that countered proponents’ claims that repealing the prevailing wage would save taxpayer dollars. He said a professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio compared the costs of projects between Ohio and Kentucky when each applied prevailing wage to school buildings and during the periods when they didn’t:

After a half-hour presentation, Philips urged lawmakers not to vote to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law or remove it from school buildings.


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