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Conservative Party opposes apprentice law

Erie County's Conservative Party chairman has written a stern letter to the County Legislature that he hopes resonates with the eight lawmakers the party endorsed in the last election.

Chairman Ralph C. Lorigo is telling them not to save a recently approved law that would make it more difficult for many construction contractors to bid on county jobs. County Executive Joel A. Giambra vetoed the law Feb. 28, but the Legislature may override his rejection when it meets at 2 p.m. today.

"Each of you have a responsibility to your constituents to review each and every proposed law and its effect on Erie County residents," Lorigo said in a letter faxed to each lawmaker Wednesday afternoon. "Unfortunately, this proposed law could have far-reaching and costly consequences for a number of important projects, both now and in the future."

Of the eight incumbent lawmakers who ran with Conservative backing, five initially voted for the law forcing contractors on county jobs to have a state-approved apprentice-training program and prove that minorities and women make up a percentage of their work forces.

Critics see the law as a way to favor unions and union contractors who generally offer state Labor Department training programs. The Associated Builders and Contractors group, which represents non-union builders, began an advertising campaign to sink the law. The group says the costs of a public works project rises as potential bidders are excluded.

This year's attempt passed 11-4, while 10 votes are needed to override a veto. However, there were signs Wednesday that the 11-vote bloc was softening and might not remain intact.

Two Democrats who had voted in favor of the law, Cheektowaga's Thomas Mazur and Buffalo's George A. Holt Jr., said they support an effort to write a better law, with input from both union and non-union contractors and Giambra's key officials. Without votes from Holt and Mazur, an attempt to override will fail.

"I believe we are doing the right thing," said South Buffalo Democrat Timothy M. Kennedy, the law's main supporter. "Tthis is about taking taxpayer dollars and reinvesting them back into the community in worker-training programs as opposed to lining the pockets of the contractors who are unwilling to do so. This is about keeping young people here.

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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