New bill will ease apprenticeship requirements in construction projects

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By Quentin Torbert

Special to Florida Construction News

A new proposed bill will lift requirements on construction apprenticeship and training requirements during construction for state-funded projects. However, local players are divided on how the bill will affect Florida construction.

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HB 53, proposed by Florida House of Representative Nick DiCeglie, will not require contractors and material suppliers to “Train employees in designated programs with restricted curriculum or from a single source,” according to the bill. This means apprenticeships programs will not be a mandatory qualification to bid on state-funded projects. Apprenticeship program requirements are typically put in place by local governments to help attract and train lower-income or disadvantaged residents to provide long-term work opportunities.

The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Florida Gulf Coast chapter supports the bill because they believe it will help competition. “All contractors in Florida are licensed to work throughout the state, therefore, this bill helps level the playing field so contractors of any size can compete freely without having to fear harmful local requirements,” says ABC president Steve Cona. “We are hoping this bill passes because we believe it is good policy for local government to procure construction projects at the best price for the taxpayers. It also opens the market for smaller contractors to compete without having to navigate harmful ordinances in 67 different counties,” Cona continues.

There are opposing views to HB 53. Tampa city councilman Luis Viera rejects the bill. “HB 53 is a one-size-fits all preemption that would get rid of all ordinances that regulate the issue of apprenticeship programs in the contracting process,” says Viera. He says this bill will further harm the construction industry.

Viera is currently collaborating with labor unions and the construction community to create a city of Tampa ordinance that uses apprenticeships to pave a pathway to the middle class. The ordinance will require at least 12% labor hours to come from apprentices on city-funded projects of at least $1 million. If a contractor can prove they tried to retain workers but can’t meet the 12% requirement, a good faith exemption will apply, and contractors will not be penalized.

Construction companies, labor unions, and other stake holders will be closely watching both pieces of legislation to see how construction will be affected. If approved, HB 53 will go into effect July 1, 2021. The effective date has not yet been released for the city of Tampa apprentice ordinance.

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