The House Commerce and Labor Committee took testimony May 25 on HB 508 which would require the Director of Commerce to investigate a contractor or subcontractor and determine whether an alleged violation of the Prevailing Wage Law has occurred
In sponsor testimony, Rep. Garrison said HB508 would “require the director of the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) to investigate a contractor or subcontractor to determine whether an alleged violation of the Prevailing Wage Law occurred even when a settlement has been agreed to regarding the alleged violation.”
Garrison indicated that 70 to 75 percent of prevailing wage complaints are settled before a final determination has been made, allowing the contractor or subcontractor to avoid being barred from contracting with a public entity for construction projects for one to three years. She noted that there is little doubt that all of the settlement agreements contain a non-admission of violation clause.
Insisting that her bill is not “anti business,” Garrison said, “Rather, it will protect Ohio’s honest, hard working businesses and the integrity of the competitive bidding system.”
While her interest in the issue was peaked by the March 2010 Ohio Supreme Court decision in Associated Builders & Contractors vs. Franklin County Board of Commissioners, which determined that the commission abused its discretion in applying bid evaluation criterion, Garrison pointed out that HB508 would have no effect on that particular case.
Garrison noted that she would not object to deleting “or the public authority” from a section of the bill dealing with determination of intent.
Rep. Wachtmann complained that the bill would be used by unions to harass non-union contractors, and asked if Garrison would be willing to place similar burdens on union grievances that are found to be unfounded. He then jeered Chairman Yuko’s defense of unions. Garrison noted that suits are being filed on both sides in Butler County.
Rep. Zehringer said the bill would kill jobs and municipal projects for a lot of small communities “where there aren’t a lot of unions,” and suggested an “opt-out amendment” for “communities of a certain size.” Garrison said she would not support such an amendment.
In response to Reps. Uecker and John Adams, Garrison agreed to obtain additional data from the DOC on prevailing wage complaints, who files them, and their resolutions. She insisted that the intent of the bill is to target businesses with a pattern of multiple violations of not paying prevailing wages and benefits and failure to stay within maximum apprentice to journeyman ratios.
She told Rep. Letson that the only change to current law would be a prohibition against the director of commerce entering into any settlement agreement that contains a non-admission clause; and told him she would look into addressing under-the-table payments to contractors such as lawn care businesses.