By David Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, ARTBA

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) piece of the FY 2016 funding legislation also includes a provision that would impose necessary constraints on an Obama Administration proposal to allow recipients of federal highway and public transportation funds to impose geographic and economic hiring preferences on those projects. The provision was contained in the Senate transportation appropriations bill, and sought by ARTBA and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America.

Earlier this year, the U.S. DOT launched a pilot program and proposed a rules change reversing a long-standing prohibition against including hiring preferences in federal-aid highway and transit projects let by state and local governments.  Previously, the department had interpreted local hiring preferences as conflicting with the requirement that federal funds be awarded to the lowest competitive bidder.  The FY 2016 funding measure will allow the department to approve hiring preferences, but only if the state or local government certifies: a sufficient qualified labor pool exists in the jurisdiction; no jobs of existing employees are displaced; and any associated cost increase would not lead to delays in transportation plans.

ARTBA initiated a letter signed by six other national construction associations to House Appropriations Committee members in November urging them to accept the Senate provision.  The Kentucky Association of Highway Contractors and Florida Transportation Builders’ Association were instrumental in convincing House Appropriations Committee leaders to agree to the Senate’s certification proposal.  Earlier in the year, the Construction Industries of Rhode Island weighed in with Senate Appropriations Committee leadership on the issue as well.

As the U.S. DOT revises its initiative to comply with the limitations in the new funding measure, ARTBA will remain in close contact with the department, our chapters and members on continuing developments.