February 14 marked an important day on the 2012 legislative calendar. In most cases, any bills that did not come out of policy committees in their chamber of origin died. This means that of the original 270+ bills that were introduced, the majority are now effectively dead.
Proposed New Laws Impacting Construction
As we have seen in the past four sessions, public contracting issues have been the focus of multiple bills in this year’s session. There are two contracting bills that have been a major focus for the AGC lobbying team. The first, HB 4144, proposed major changes to Oregon’s public contracting laws. The changes would have fundamentally altered the lowest responsible bidder principle. AGC, along with local government contracting agencies, actively opposed and successfully killed this legislation.
The second bill with potentially dangerous impacts to public contracting law was, in its original form, SB 1518. AGC worked with the bill’s sponsor—Senate Democratic leadership—to exclude Section 279C, the portion of Oregon’s public contracting laws that deals with commercial construction. The bill is now moving forward as amended, but will not impact public works construction law, our members, or our industry. Click here to access the amended version of the bill.
Capital Construction and Public Works Spending
The legislature will focus most of the remaining days of this annual session on agreeing to budgets, including capital construction proposals. In this first annual short session, AGC has prioritized spending on new public works projects and protecting existing dedicated funding sources, like the Highway Trust Fund.
AGC’s team is actively working to secure approval for Oregon University System (OUS) capital projects. In 2011, the legislature deferred decisions on three large projects at Oregon State University (OSU): the OSU Student Experience Center ($43.6M/392 potential jobs), the OSU Memorial Union Renovation ($9.58M/86 potential jobs), and the OSU New Residence Hall ($30M/270 potential jobs). A new level of due diligence regarding cost, need, and value of projects, coupled with the constrained debt ceiling have been barriers to approval. AGC’s Government Affairs team, along with the leadership of AGC First Vice President Tom Gerding, are working diligently with the Oregon House Republican leadership to win the necessary approval for these projects to move forward. For more information on the specific projects please click here.
As always, the waning days of any session revolve around budget decisions. The date targeted by the legislative leadership to finish its business is Wednesday, February 29.