The House Commerce & Labor Committee advanced a proposal Wednesday to restrict state funding for construction projects that require union labor.

The panel split along partisan lines in reporting Rep. Ron Young’s (R-Leroy) proposal (HB 102), as well as an amendment that the sponsor said was designed to make the bill’s title more accurately reflect the legislative intent.

Chairman Rep. Joseph Uecker (R-Loveland) said after the hearing that he had no assurance from leadership that the bill would come to a vote on the House floor shortly. However, he doesn’t anticipate substantial opposition within the GOP caucus.

Democrats and labor unions that oppose the measure, which would prohibit governmental agencies from requiring project labor agreements on public construction, say it closely resembles a law that Rep. Young sponsored in 1999, which the Ohio Supreme Court subsequently overturned.

Opponents say governmental entities should be free to enter into PLAs to ensure a high quality, well-trained source of local labor for public improvement projects. Proponents say the agreements effectively stymie non-union companies from bidding and drive up construction costs. 

Rep. Young said the measure was substantively different than his previous legislation, which included an outright prohibition against political subdivisions entering into PLAs.

“This bill doesn’t do that,” he said in an interview. The intent is to open up the pool of potential bidders on public construction projects, he added.

The measure would allow government entities to enter into PLAs, but if government officials include requirements that allow only unionized companies to bid on a project, it would not be eligible for state funding.

“We won’t use our monies to support that if they discriminate. Of course as the state, we can control our own processes,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of government entities saying, ‘We’re only going to work with these particular companies.’ I think it should be an open process.”

Rep. Young said his amendment cleaned up the bill title by stating that PLAs could not be prohibited or required.