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Assembly passes bill to reverse a Republican-led, 2015 rollback of prevailing wages for school construction

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels

The Assembly passed a measure Monday that would reverse a 2015 law on prevailing wage for school construction that passed in the face of strident union opposition the year Republicans controlled state government.

Assembly members voted 28-12, on party lines, to approve AB136. The bill would require school districts and the Nevada System of Higher Education to pay the full prevailing wage for work done on school construction projects, rather than the 90 percent required under existing law. Prevailing wage is a sort of minimum wage for laborers that varies by the type of work the laborer is doing and by region.

“In 2015, the Nevada Legislature undermined Nevada’s workforce by gutting prevailing wage protections in state construction projects. AB 136 reverses those law changes and restores prevailing wage standards,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said in a statement. “By requiring the payment of prevailing wages on public projects, we not only support our local labor force by providing competitive wages, we will also attract the most qualified workers.”

Frierson called the bill’s passage “a huge step in providing much needed economic security to working class families.”

The bill also requires prevailing wages to kick in for any project that costs more than $100,000. That reverses the 2015 law, which raised the threshold to $250,000.

Former Gov. Brian Sandoval rejected a similar bill that passed the Democratic-controlled Legislature last session, saying it would raise construction costs and prevent districts from stretching scarce taxpayers dollars.

“Stakeholders and lawmakers compromised in 2015 to propose moderate, but necessary reforms that I supported,” he wrote in a veto message in 2017. “There is no superseding change today that justifies the rollback of this compromise.”

Republican Assemblyman Gregory Hafen spoke out against the measure on the floor, saying it would add tens of millions of dollars to construction budgets based on estimates from school districts. Republican Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen also gave a short speech against the bill, saying it would hurt charter schools because it newly requires them to pay prevailing wage.

But Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly said it would level the playing field and protect the state from unfair competition.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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