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ABC of Texas Priority Issues

High Priorities

Neutrality in State Government Contracting - A high priority of ABC National is to protect merit shop contractors by preventing governmental entities from requiring the use of project labor agreements (pre-hire collective bargaining agreements) for projects using state resources. The state would not be regulating labor practices (which is prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act) but acting in its capacity as a proprietor. Our goal is not to prohibit project labor agreements from being used by a contractor, but to prevent one from being required or prohibited by the governmental entity when state resources are being used.

Lien Law Modernization - Quite simply, the Texas Lien Law is too complicated. ABC of Texas is working with other construction industry groups-primarily AGC-TBB and TCA-to develop a simplified approach that can be embraced by most if not all stakeholders. Of course, the devil is in the details and this project faces considerable barriers if a proposal is perceived to create a significant new disadvantage to any large stakeholder. The goal is to simplify the preservation of lien rights and eliminate complicated tripwires without upsetting the balance in the current scheme. The goal of modernization is not to encourage liens, but to avoid the need to file liens by ensuring that contractors and suppliers are paid.

Public Employees Dues Deduction - Public entities should not be deducting dues for labor unions and employee associations from employees' checks. That is a direct subsidization of those organizations using public money. In many cases, those same organizations are prominent in public officeholders campaigns.

Other Priorities

E-Verify (Safe Harbor) - If any mandatory E-Verify bill is passed, ABC of Texas wants language assuring employers that the employer will not be penalized if the employer is a victim of fraud AND that an employer is protected from a discrimination lawsuit if the employer relies on E-Verify.

Workers' Compensation (Sole Remedy) - ABC of Texas seeks to eliminate third party lawsuits for which its members general indemnify owners. Such a change would likely require other changes in the system and are unlikely to even be initiated without a broad coalition. Any attempt to mandate Workers' Compensation for the construction industry will be used as an opportunity to advocate sole remedy.

Employee Misclassification - The construction industry has been criticized for rampant worker misclassification (classifying employees as contractors). Of course, this type of misclassification is not unique to any one industry and may even be more rampant in others. To address the fact that worker misclassification gives violators a competitive advantage over those following the law, ABC of Texas has been willing to address the issue provided that contractors are only responsible for their own hiring decisions, legitimate use of individuals as contractors is protected, and employers are not subject to increased penalties for good faith mistakes or arbitrary agency decisions.

State Breach of Contract Cleanup - Legislation was passed in 2013 to provide a waiver of sovereign immunity for state governmental entities for breach of construction contracts. While an important first step, this legislation did not provide the same coverage as the waivers for other governmental entities in Texas. This statute needs to be consistent with the waivers of sovereign immunity for construction contracts with other governmental entities in Texas including recovery of attorney's fees.

Retainage/Trust Funds - While this issue could be addressed in Lien Law Modernization, if Lien Law Modernization does not advance this session, ABC of Texas will join with TCA and AGC-TBB to support a means of assuring that statutory retainage (which protects project owners from liability in excess of the retainage) is available to contractors and subcontractors in the case of a default. Unfortunately, the common practice appears to be to have the lender withhold the amount of the retainage, meaning the money never becomes construction trust funds. Arguably, this practice does not protect the owner since the money was not retained, but the practice most likely only becomes a problem when there is a foreclosure by the lender and the contractors and subcontractors are left with no real lien rights.

License for Journeyman Industrial Electrician - This is a proposal to create a new licensing category, NOT A NEW LICENSING REQUIREMENT. It would allow for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to recognize a third party certification (NCCER Industrial Electrician) as the basis for allowing Electrical Apprentices in the industrial sector to be recognized for this license. For an Apprentice in the industrial sector to become a Journeyman Electrician, that person would have to become proficient in items not used in that person's workplace. This license would still require 8,000 hours as an Apprentice and continuing education.