Wednesday, January 27, 2016
By Phil Kabler, Statehouse Reporter
The House of Delegates voted Wednesday to repeal West Virginia's just-revised Prevailing Wage Act,
even though eight Republicans joined the House's 36 Democrats in voting against the measure.
The 55-44 vote followed more than 27% hours of intense debate over the bill (HB 4005).
Earlier, the House, on a mostly party-line 61-38 vote, rejected a motion calling for an economic impact
study of the law's repeal. That marked the second time a call for an economic impact study had been
quashed, along with rejections of three motions requesting a fiscal note on the repeal legislation's
impact on state agencies.
"Good stewards of the taxpayers' money — we're not even going to take the time to study this," said
Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, after his motion was rejected.
"People are hell-bent about shoving this through," Sponaugle said. "It doesn't matter about facts. It
doesn't matter about evidence. It doesn't matter about House rules."
"I think there are those who are afraid to find out this is a bad deal for West Virginia and a bad deal for
West Virginia workers," added Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton.
Proponents argued that, even with revisions enacted last session — including elimination of the wage
requirement for projects of $500,000 or less — the 81-year-old prevailing wage law continues to
artificially inflate wage rates for construction workers on major state-funded construction projects.
"Every tax dollar that's spent comes out of the pocket of taxpayers, and I agree these dollars must be
spent wisely," said House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan. "These wages are inflated, and it's
unfair to the taxpayers."
Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, was more blunt, stating, "Today, you will decide whether to
stand with the taxpayers or with the union bosses."
Opponents of the bill repeatedly called the repeal vote a "sad day in West Virginia," and apologized to
the union workers that filled the three House galleries.
They cited overwhelming numbers of calls and emails opposing the bill. House Minority Leader Tim
Miley, D-Harrison, noted that only two speakers spoke in favor of the bill at the only public hearing on
the legislation, with one being a representative of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-funded
political advocacy group.
Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, cited a Gazette-Mail advertisement from a number of building
contractors opposing the repeal.
"I don't see no labor bosses on this ad. I don't see no labor unions on this ad," Caputo said, holding the
ad aloft. "I see businesses that have been doing business in West Virginia for a long, long time."
Miley suggested the conditions that led to passage of prevailing wage in the 1930s are still valid today,
to prevent out-of-state contractors using low-paid labor from coming in and underbidding local
contractors for public construction projects.
Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, a building contractor, said the cheapest option is rarely the best
"The most important thing we can do is assure the public gets an excellent product," Reynolds said. "We
know prevailing wage job sites are safer. There's a clear record of that over time."
"I apologize for the tragedy that's before you today," Delegate Michael Ferro, D-Marshall, told the
He faulted leadership for not allowing time to assess the impact of new prevailing wage rates, calculated
by WorkForce West Virginia using wage surveys from more than 3,700 state contractors. The new rates
went into effect in October.
Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said the debate was distracting from the real problems facing the
state, including a $120 million funding shortfall for the Public Employees Insurance Agency and budget
deficits in excess of $350 million a year for the current and upcoming 2016-17 budget year.
"The point is, we need to be dealing with the problems we have, not the problems you want to create
because you don't like unions," she told the House majority.
Delegate Michael Ihle, R-Jackson, countered that the state's dire economics demands repeal of
"We're desperate. We're broke. 'No' is not good enough," he said.
While the bill advanced from its only committee assignment on a party-line 15-9 vote in the
Government Organization Committee, eight Republicans voted with the 36 House Democrats on
Those were: Delegates Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay;
John Kelly, R-Wood; Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell; William Romine, R-Tyler; Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; and
Danny Wagner, R-Barbour. Newly appointed Delegate Bill Flanigan, R-Monongalia, was absent.
The bill goes to the Senate, which passed companion legislation to make West Virginia a "right-to-work"
state on a party line 17-16 vote on Jan. 21.
The right-to-work bill (SB 1), which would allow workers in union shops to opt out of paying union dues,
is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.
The Hispanic festival outreach informational booth in St.Louis Mo was a great success due to the Eastern Missouri Laborers organizers. The Organizers handed out Right-to-Work information and stickers, Voter registration forms, and "What it takes to become a Union Laborer" information. Thanks to all the organizers involved in the outreach