In Tennessee, Republicans in the state house are introducing a series of bills that would repeal the prevailing wage in the construction industry.
On Monday, State Rep. Pat Marsh took to the pages of the Elk Valley Times to trumpet what he calls his “biggest bill in committee”:
I have been asked to carry this bill by the construction and contracting industries in our state. I have been studying and learning more about why this wage was started and why we need to do away with it. If it passes, there should be many more construction companies that bid on state projects which means we should see much more competitive bids. I feel that if we pass this legislation, Tennessee will save millions of dollars a year on its construction costs.
HB-501 was passed by the TN House last week and its companion bill SB35 passed the Senate State and Local Government committee on Monday. SB35 prohibits local governments from mandating health insurance benefits, leave policies, hourly wage standards or prevailing wage standards that deviate from statutorily imposed standards as either a condition of operating a business within the jurisdictional boundaries of the local government or when the local government contracts with a private employer. Also in the House is HB850 which would remove certain prevailing wage requirements, specifically for the construction industry.
The prevailing wage reform is likely to pass as the Tennessee state government is currently held by the Republican party at all levels. The House GOP enjoys a 70-28 majority with one right-leaning Independent. The state’s 33 member Senate is split 20-13 in favor of Republicans and the Governor’s mansion is home to Republican Bill Haslam.
It should be noted but come as no surprise that one of the primary co-sponsors of HB850, Rep. Bob Ramsey, has a long history with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In the past, he has served on ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force and the Communications and Technology Task Force as an alternate. ALEC has made a strong push for state governments to take up the cause of their Prevailing Wage Repeal Act model legislation.