CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead says negotiations are already underway to change what’s being proposed in a bill dealing with the West Virginia Jobs Act.
The bill is part of a special legislative session getting underway Monday at the state capitol. Labor interests want the current act changed with the anticipation of lots of contractors being hired because of the passage of the road bond amendment earlier this month.
The current West Virginia Jobs Act, passed by the legislature in 2001, requires contractors on a construction job 100 percent funded by the state to have 75 percent of their employees from the local labor market. There are fines for non-compliance.
The draft of the bill, supported by labor, would up fines from $100-a-day for non-compliance by a contractor to $250-a-day per employee hired under the terms of the act. The fines would increase over a few weeks with the potential of criminal charges.
“If there is a continued violation of the act beyond the 30 days then there is a provision for prosecution up to a felony charge and the penalties are stated in the act,” state Department of Revenue General Counsel Allen Prunty told state lawmakers Monday morning.
By mid-morning, a new version of the bill had been sent up from the Governor’s Office, removing the felony provision.
The proposal also closes some holes in job descriptions covered by the act, Prunty said.
Armstead, during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Monday, said he the current Jobs Act should be enforced. He also said he believes as many West Virginians as possible should be hired but he said he’s concerned the changes will make the act more restrictive and would slow down road bond projects.
“Going and making them so restrictive that you really can’t comply or you would have a difficult time to comply would just slow everything down. I really don’t think that’s the area we want to go,” Armstead said.
He said the current draft of the bill going around would “have an uphill climb” in the House and that’s why negotiations are already underway.
Prunty told lawmakers the current provisions of the act are just a slap on the wrist to contractors who violate them.
“I know these are stiff penalties but the $100-per-day, not per-employee-per-day, but per-day for violation of the act–there’s just no teeth for enforcement,” Prunty said.