These bills were initially discussed during the first month of the Session, and with just 10 days left, it seems appropriate to revisit where things stand with some of the changes that have been proposed for our public works procurement processes. Bills introduced this session would have required the payment of current prevailing wage on the date work is performed, expanded the definition of public works, will likely add apprenticeship utilization requirements for some projects, and will update the Small Works Roster to allow for direct contracting with certified small businesses for projects under $150,000.
2SSB 5268 addresses equity and efficiencies in public works procurement by modifying the Small Works Roster. The bill language significantly changes the Small Works Roster process to reduce barriers for small businesses. It allows jurisdictions to direct contracts with certified small businesses for projects under $150,000. It creates a new definition of small business and a new certification process, as well as tasking MRSC with establishing and managing a new state-wide roster system for jurisdictions to use. The Capital Projects Advisory Review Board reached a consensus on these proposed changes and recommended the legislation. WSACE tracked the development, participated in the process, and signed in “Pro” for the hearings. We also continued to monitor the bill for any proposed amendments. The bill has passed both chambers and is currently in Senate Rules awaiting concurrence for an amendment adopted by the House.
HB 1099 was introduced early in the session and would have required that wages in public works contracts be paid at the prevailing wage in effect when the work is performed. We had initial concerns regarding how the bill might impact bid calculation, possibly lead to price increases, and raise questions about who would be responsible for ensuring the correct wage is paid. The bill didn’t pass out of committee in the House; however, in the Senate, ESSB 5726 was amended on the floor to include very similar language and passed the chamber. While we appreciated that the Floor Amendment tried to address some of the challenges, the bill remained very technical, and we still had concerns that the amended draft would increase change orders, create unpredictability for project planning, and create inconsistency in the statute. The bill failed to make it out of committee in the House, and we have committed to working with our other local association partners and stakeholders over the interim to resolve the remaining concerns.
ESHB 1050 will expand apprenticeship utilization requirements for contractors bidding on certain municipal contracts. We supported the intent of this bill initially but continued to work with our local government association partners and the proponents to improve it. Originally, the bill would have expanded apprenticeship utilization requirements to municipalities awarding public works contracts of more than one million dollars and subcontracts of $200,000 or more. These contracts would require specifications that no less than 15 percent of the labor hours be performed by apprentices. The bill was amended in Executive Session to increase the subcontractor requirement threshold to $350,000 and allow municipalities to adjust the requirements if there was a demonstrated lack of apprentices in a specific geographic area or if contractors could demonstrate a good faith effort to comply with the requirements. The bill was placed on the Floor Calendar, and was again amended, this time removing the subcontractor requirement completely. The bill passed out of the House. In the Senate, we worked to increase the program threshold to two million dollars. The bill was amended on the Senate Floor and will now stair-step implementation from two million to one million in two-year increments. As amended, the bill also includes language to provide training and resources for local jurisdictions and requires a study to provide feedback regarding outcomes. The bill is now awaiting concurrence from the House for the Senate Floor amendment.
WSACE, Policy Director