Capitol Alert: California cities ramp up fight against union wage bill

dwalters@sacbee.comJune 21, 2013 

Jose Arias nails a board to a structure that was was being built at a project at 25th and R Streets that was put on hold during the crash they have started construction on two model homes on Friday, May 24, 2013.

HECTOR AMEZCUA — hamezcua@sacbee.com

The League of California Cities is ramping up its campaign to defeat a high-profile, union-sponsored bill aimed at preventing charter cities -- those with their own governing systems -- from bypassing the state's "prevailing wage" law on some construction projects.

The measure, Senate Bill 7, is being carried by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on behalf of construction unions in response to a state Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that charter cities could build projects with their own money, not using any state funds, without requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages, which are generally those set by union contracts. It stemmed from a conflict over the construction of a fire station in Vista, a small San Diego County city.

SB 7 would prohibit cities that ignore prevailing wages from receiving state funds and would, the league says, potentially bar 51 cities from receiving state aid in 22 programs, including clean water and flood control. Proponents say that paying prevailing wages on construction ensures high-quality work.

Prevailing wages must be paid on all projects that use state funds and are applied, as well, to all projects in "general law" cities that don't have charters. Another pending bill would require prevailing wages for any private construction projects that are underwritten by proceeds from the state's new cap-and-trade fees.

"If the Legislature starts down the road of treating the valid actions of local voters with contempt, public confidence will be lost in the validity of local elections and respect for the Legislature will be further eroded," the city organization said in a letter to members of the Assembly Local Government Committee, which will hear the Senate-passed bill next week.

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