Erie County lawmakers are requiring that construction contractors have in place a worker-training program, approved by the state Labor Department, in order to work on a county government construction project.
The law was approved 11-4 -- enough votes to override a veto from County Executive Joel A. Giambra, who has vetoed such a requirement in the past, arguing it serves taxpayers poorly by raising construction costs.
When laws that Giambra dislikes pass with a veto-proof majority, he often asks his county attorney to find legal justification to declare the measures "null and void." Such a finding means that the law's language, or the process in which it was approved, was flawed, so the demands need not be followed.
The new law's prime sponsor was Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy, who represents the South Buffalo district once represented by Mark J.F. Schroeder. The pro-union Schroeder, now a state assemblyman, was the prime sponsor of the worker-training law Giambra vetoed in July 2004.
Kennedy argued in a caucus meeting and on the Legislature floor that the requirement will lead to a better-trained force of tradespeople in Erie County. He said it will stimulate local employment because contractors won't look outside the region for workers, and it will make work sites safer.
Other proponents, such as Buffalo Democrat George A. Holt Jr., argued that the law also forces contractors to each month show that a percentage of their work force is made up of minorities and women.
Opponents of the worker-training measure have said it is crafted to benefit unionized bidders, who all use apprenticeship programs approved by the state Labor Department. In its analysis done when the issue surfaced in 2004, the Associated Builders and Contractors group said the costs of a public works project rise 3 percent for every potential bidder who is excluded. If five bidders are lost on a $5 million project because of such a law, the cost jumps to $6 million, the group said.
A public hearing on the proposal is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday on the 16th floor of the Rath County Office Building.