Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

State News

March 6, 2014

Prevailing wage bill dies in committee

FRANKFORT — The state House of Representatives will apparently not vote on a bill to remove the requirement that public school construction projects pay the area’s prevailing wage.

The bill was sponsored by House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and supporters say its passage would save local school districts and the state several million dollars on school construction projects. Opponents say requiring the prevailing wage for such projects ensures higher work quality and benefits both union and non-union workers’ wages.

But the House Labor and Industry Committee voted 19-1 against the bill Thursday, with one Republican, Jim Steward of Flat Lick, joining 18 Democrats in voting down the bill. Two others, Regina Bunch of Williamsburg and Lynn Bechler of Marion cast “pass” votes. Republican Adam Koenig of Erlanger voted for the bill.

Oddly enough, no one — including Hoover or co-sponsor Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green — testified in support of the measure. Koenig said Hoover was ill and couldn’t attend and had only been informed Wednesday the bill would receive a hearing Thursday. Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, said he’d told Hoover on Monday.

Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, a union member, wasn’t happy neither of the sponsors showed up.

“I think (they) ought to stand up and let everyone know how (they) think this will help the people of Kentucky,” Clark said.

The room was packed with members of the Laborers International Union of North America, including IUNA Kentucky business manager Mitchell Oney of Sandy Hook.

Oney said the union was responsible for bringing University of Utah professor of economics Dr. Peter Phillips to Frankfort to testify against the bill.

Given the make-up of the committee, with its majority of Democrats and the absence of anyone to testify for the bill, that probably wasn’t necessary.

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