LEGISLATIVE SESSION TO SPEED UP
Work on bills will be at a rapid pace this week as legislators work to meet prescribed deadlines. Today is the last day to introduce bills in the House and Senate. February 27, the 47th day of the session, is last day to get bills out of committees in their house of origin to ensure three full days for reading. Since the 27th is a Sunday, lawmakers must have bills out of committee Friday, February 25. The 50th day is cross over day. If a bill does not pass its house of origin by March 2, it is dead for this session. The final day of the session is March 12.
There are a number of bills important to the construction industry, including S.B. 240 - which allows the Purchasing Division to conduct reverse auctions for commodities, extension of the Design-Build pilot program for the WV Division of Highways, funding for highways, energy standards for public buildings, separate prime contracts for building projects over $500,000, 10-hour OSHA bill and a prompt pay act for vendors doing business with the state of West Virginia.
The administration and WV Division of Highways continue to look at measures to fund the remaining portion of Route 35. The $187 million project bid in November is supposed to be awarded by Thursday, Feb. 24, but the bond market and lesser than expected traffic counts have made funding for the project questionable. Other bonding measures are being discussed as is finding state funds to augment the reduced revenues from tolls. Today’s Charleston Daily Mail contains an article stating Acting Governor Tomblin is proposing a $110 million loan from the state Public Retirement System to help fund the Route 35 project. The retirement system had nearly $3.7 billion in assets at the beginning of the fiscal year. Under the bill that is supposed to be introduced today, the payback would be paid back using the tolls collected and any shortfall in tolls would be made up by the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council. More information will be sent as it becomes available.
The legislature is also grappling with providing funds for the DOH’s overall operating budget. S.B. 395 transfers surplus funds from the state’s general fund to the State Road Fund. The bill passed Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee but has yet to be taken up in Senate Finance.
U.S. HOUSE TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE KICKS OFF LISTENING SESSIONS IN WEST VIRGINIA
U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., visited West Virginia last Monday for the first of twelve field hearings and listening sessions related to reauthorization of the nation’s highway funding program. The panel, hosted by Rep. Nick Rahall in Beckley and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in Charleston, is preparing to draft a comprehensive, long-term highway funding bill over the coming months that will serve as a sort of strategic plan for infrastructure projects to receive funding nationwide over the coming years. The current bill, SAFETEA-LU, is in the process of being reauthorized through September 30, the end of the federal fiscal year.
"There's a new atmosphere in Washington," said Rep. Mica. "It's very difficult to get votes to the floor that aren't reducing some program." An increase in the federal excise tax on gasoline and diesel sales, not raised since 1993, would be the easiest way to fund a long-term transportation program, but Rep. Mica says that won't happen. "I said last summer that the gas tax increase was dead," he said. After last fall's election, "it's dead, buried and six feet under." He told the panel of industry and transportation representatives that officials are scouring the books for allocated but unspent federal and state dollars that can be redirected toward transportation funding. To read the full report of the proceedings, see the February 18 CAWV Newsletter by clicking here.
REVERSE AUCTION BILL GAINS MOMENTUM
S. B. 240 has been revised and is getting momentum in the legislature. The bill, introduced by Acting Governor Tomblin, would allow the Director of the Purchasing Division to conduct reverse auctions to purchase commodities. A committee substitute was drafted last week to specifically exclude construction contracts from reverse auction procurement. The CAWV has consistently opposed reverse auctions as a procurement method for construction projects. The substitute bill also exempts professional and business services from the procedure. The new version gives the Purchasing Director the ability to determine that the use of a reverse auction would be advantageous to the state rather than making reverse auctions mandatory on all supplies, material or equipment purchases. If the bill passes, the director will have to propose rules to implement the reverse auction process. The bill is referred to the Senate Committee on Government Organization.
H.B. 3141 REQUIRES BOND FOR ROAD DAMAGE
H.B. 3141 would require entities that may damage a road while operating on it to post a bond with the WVDOH Commissioner to guarantee the road would be fixed once the work is completed. Included in the bill are those companies that perform mineral extraction, logging, industrial projects and major construction. The term “major construction” is not defined in the bill, nor is the value or term of the bond detailed or how the road would be repaired. It is also not defined what happens if a contractor hauls legal loads but the road still gets damaged. The CAWV questions whether the owner of the project will be responsible for the bond or damage or the contractors and suppliers who operate on the road. The bill has to get through two committees, House Roads and Transportation and then Finance.
OSHA BILL GOES TO HOUSE GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION COMMITTEE
The House Government Organization Committee is expected to take up this week H.B. 2425, a bill to require contractors working on a public works construction project to have all of their employees take the 10-hour OSHA safety course prior to coming on the job site. An amendment was offered in House Energy, Industry, Labor, Economic Development and Small Business Committee last week to give contractors seven days from the date of hire to get their employees trained.
House and Senate bills can be accessed from the CAWV’s Legislative home page at www.cawv.org/legislative. Members can view status updates on bills of interest to the construction industry and see what legislation is introduced that affects the construction industry. A summary of each day’s activities will be uploaded each afternoon.
Below is a list of bills that have been introduced this week that have an impact on the construction industry or some CAWV members. Anyone needing further information can contact Mike Clowser at (304) 342-1166 or email email@example.com.
HB 3160 Del. Savilla, Geargheart, Overington, Armstead, C. Miller, Kump, Carmichael and Andes-Transferring powers of construction and maintenance activities to parkways authority-To Roads and Transportation then Government Organization.
HB 3181 Del. Boggs, Cann, Barill, Mahan and Guthrie [By Request of the State Auditor’s Office]-Creating “The Prompt Pay Act of 2011" (FN)-To Government Organization then Finance.
HB 3201 Del. Doyle, Perdue, Talbott, Moore, Williams, Mahan, Hamilton, Marshall, Barker, Martin and Lawrence-Increasing the number of commissioners on the Public Service Commission (FN)-To Government Organization then Finance.
HB 3203 Del. Guthrie and Boggs-Creating a fund within the council for community and economic development to assist communities with strategic and feasibility plans-To Finance.
HB 3232 Del. Canterbury, Walters, Hamilton, Evans and Azinger-Relating to consumers sales tax on motor vehicles (FN)-To Roads and Transportation then Finance.
HB 3238 Del. Howell, Evans, Hamilton, M. Poling, Rowan and Shaver-Allowing additional facilities to be built on the site of wind power facilities that are already properly permitted by law-To Judiciary.
HB 3250 Del. Guthrie-Authorizing the School Building Authority to award grants or moneys to county and local library board in connection with public library construction projects (FN)-To Finance.
SB 523 Sen. Klempa, Yost, D. Facemire, Edgell, Unger and Barnes-Creating tax credit for apprenticeship training in construction trades (FN)-To Labor then Finance.
SB 525 Sen. Snyder-Providing use of lottery funds for public projects-To Transportation and Infrastructure then Finance.
SB 529 Sen. McCabe-Relating to circumstances giving rise to “State ‘on’ indicators” for extended unemployment compensation-To Judiciary then Finance.
SB 536 Sen. Hall and K. Facemyer-Requiring certain funds from current surplus to be used solely for completing Route 35 (FN)-To Transportation and Infrastructure then Finance.
SB 556 Sen. McCabe, Green, Edgell, Helmick, Yost, Browning, Tucker, Miller and Fanning-Relating to Water Development Authority employees (FN)-To Government Organization than Finance.
SB 567 Sen. Snyder-Establishing planning commission’s rights and obligations when developer files for bankruptcy before development’s completion-To Government Organization then Judiciary.
SB 577 Sen. McCabe-Authorizing School Building Authority award grants and moneys to library boards for construction projects (FN)-To Education then Finance.