TRENTON – Senate lawmakers released a bill from committee Thursday that would expand the scope of public labor agreements to include more public works projects.
The bill cleared the Senate panel along party lines.
The bill, S2425, would amend the statute dealing with authorizing project labor agreements to allow additional labor agreements with the state.
It expands the definition of “public works project,” which pertains now to “construction, reconstruction, demolition or renovation” projects, according to the bill.
The proposal effectively allows the option for municipalities to enter into such labor agreements for a number of projects, including construction on highways, bridges, pumping stations, water treatment plants and other public facilities.
Several representatives of labor groups spoke in support of the bill, which is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney. They argued the bill is a pro-New Jersey bill, saying it puts New Jerseyans back to work.
“Allow the option, just the option, is what we should be doing more of,” said Sweeney, who sat in on the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.
Opponents to the bill, which included the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, argued that while all companies – union or non-union – should bid on public contracts, the change would ultimately raise the cost of projects.
Sweeney argued voting the proposal down would bar local governments from at least having the option to enter into the agreements.
“This gives the local government an opportunity,” he said. “It does not mean a mandate.”
Some Republican lawmakers who either voted against releasing the measure or abstained from voting said they may reconsider their positions when the bill hits the Senate floor after being able to do more research on the proposal.