January 2013

In a strong finish to the 2011-2012 session, the Massachusetts Legislature passed and Governor Patrick signed last night S. 2386, An Act to Ensure Transparency and Workforce Participation in Public Construction Contracts.  The bill strengthens reporting requirements for public contractors to help ensure construction projects funded by taxpayer dollars are creating local jobs and promoting workforce diversity.

The bill, lead by Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, received initial passage by the Senate this past July and was then stewarded through the House by Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry. The House passed the bill on Friday, December 28, and the Senate voted for final passage on Monday, December 31—in the last two hours of the last day of the term. Governor Patrick signed the bill into law on January 10th.

“This bill is a success for accountability, transparency, and opportunity in communities hardest hit by the recession,” said Chang-Díaz. “I’m extremely grateful to Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo for making this issue a priority before the clock ran out on the 2011-2012 session. The bill’s passage is the direct result of the hard work of a statewide coalition of advocates, constituents, and elected officials. I also want to offer my sincerest gratitude to those who fought for this bill along the way, including Representative Forry, the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and City Councilors Ayanna Pressley, Michael Ross, and Tito Jackson.”

“With the state investing millions in construction each year, communities benefiting from state projects through local jobs and increased transparency are vital,” said Representative Forry.  “This bill will help compile data on companies that are meeting goals for the employment of local residents, women, and people of color. I am so proud to have worked with Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz to ensure that this was one of the final bills to have passed the legislature in 2012.”

“We know there was tough negotiating in the final weeks around this bill, and we thank Senator Chang-Díaz and Representative Forry for standing strong on behalf of the community,” said Greg Janey, President of JANEY Company and Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association. “This bill is a victory for the minority/women and small businesses community, as it will shine a light on practices within the public construction industry and help hold contractors accountable for poor performance.”

“The MTWA, founded by union tradeswomen,  thanks Senator Chang-Díaz, Representative Forry, their staff, allies and especially tradeswomen for all of the work to get this bill passed into law,” said Jenaya Nelson and Katie Liljegren, Chair and Vice-Chair of the Massachusetts Tradeswomen’s Association.  “It is a good win and first step toward fair access to hiring on state funded construction projects.  To be blunt, without this bill, there is no incentive for contractors to hire tradeswomen; but without enforcement of this bill, there will be no incentive in training or hiring tradeswomen on the next job and the next. And so, there is still work to be done. We look forward to that large task and are encouraged by this victory.”

“Massachusetts invests millions of taxpayer dollars each year on public construction projects, yet we lack a consistent mechanism for tracking if these projects are creating economic opportunities for minority, women, and small and local businesses owners,” said Jesse Jeter, President of the Massachusetts Minority Contractors Association. “The swift passage of the Jobs Access Bill is a vital step in helping the state to obtain this information.”

S. 2386 creates economic incentives to increase workforce diversity, and increases accountability and transparency within the public contracting system from the initial bidding process through each project’s completion. The bill:

  • Requires the state to develop a website and post quarterly performance numbers, contract by contract, so the public can judge the state’s and contractors’ performance on hiring diversity and local job creation in real time, instead of post-project;
  • Mandates state construction agencies to evaluate each bidder’s past performance in living up to the workforce diversity goals that they stated in their contracts;
  • Makes it a stated policy of the Commonwealth to include workforce diversity goals in all state-funded construction projects; and
  • Incentivizes bidders on public contracts to follow through on their contract’s diversity goals by making this a factor upon which their future bids to the state get evaluated.

The new law has strong community support. Other stakeholders who have advocated for the bill along its path to passage include Boston Mayor Tom Menino, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, Brockton City Councilor Jass Stewart, Mel King, Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, the Center for Women and Enterprise, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Boston Workers Alliance, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, Karl Nurse Communications, Nexus Alliance, D’Ventures Limited, LLC, and the Union of Minority Neighborhoods.

”For the past six years, Governor Patrick has demonstrated his commitment to supporting small businesses and creating jobs for our residents,” said Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry of Governor Deval Patrick’s announcement regarding major changes to employer fees. “These initiatives are just one more example of positive changes he has made, in partnership with the legislature, to ensure Massachusetts remains a top place to do business.”

“The overwhelming cost of healthcare, especially the Fair Share Contribution, was the number one issue we learned about on my Committee’s Statewide Small Business Listening Tour,” continued Forry.  “I am thrilled to have worked with our state leaders to ease the burden on employers.”

Last July, the Legislature passed a healthcare reform bill tackling a broad range of issues including physical and mental health as well as the importance of preventative care. Importantly, the legislation incorporated a key amendment for small businesses filed by Rep. Forry.  The language excluded employees who already have healthcare coverage through another means such as a spouse or parent from the calculation determining the Fair Share Contribution (a fine on employers for failing to provide insurance to a significant percentage of their employees).

“The Governor’s new plan will further protect employers from several unnecessary and over-burdensome regulations that are currently choking their growth,” said Rep. Forry.