Arkansas Governor Signs Law that Ensures Open Competition on Public Construction Projects
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) recently signed the Fair and Open Competition in Governmental Construction Act (S.B. 426). The bill codifies and strengthens a 2005 executive order issued by Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) that prohibits government entities from requiring contractors to enter into wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) as a condition of performing work on publicly funded construction projects.
A PLA is a job-specific union collective bargaining agreement, which effectively steers construction contracts to unionized firms and their all-union workforces. When mandated on publicly funded construction projects, PLAs make it nearly impossible for the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses to join a union to compete fairly for projects funded by their own tax dollars. In Arkansas, more than 97 percent of the private construction workforce chooses not to join a labor organization.
“PLAs discourage competition by arbitrarily cutting out many qualified contractors and their skilled craft professionals from bidding on projects funded by their own tax dollars,” said ABC of Arkansas President Bill Roachell. “By encouraging all qualified bidders in Arkansas, regardless of labor affiliation, to bid on taxpayer-funded projects, the legislature and Gov. Hutchinson are sending a clear, bipartisan message that these special interest handouts to union bosses are not welcome in Arkansas.”
“This bipartisan, common sense legislation will codify an executive order that since 2005 has ensured that Arkansas taxpayers get the best possible return on their tax dollars,” said ABC Director of State and Local Affairs Andy Conlin. “The unanimous passage of this important legislation by the state legislature and today’s action by Gov. Hutchinson clearly demonstrate the ever-growing bipartisan consensus that PLA mandates are bad public policy.”
President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2009 encouraging the use of PLAs on public construction projects, since the order, 18 states have banned mandatory PLAs. The bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives 84-0 on March 17 and the Senate 33-0 on Feb. 26 and will codify Executive Order 05-09 issued by former Gov. Huckabee on July 21, 2005.