CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 05/13/2011

Road Commissioner Authority

AB 720 (Hall) – Oppose
As Amended May 9, 2011

AB 720, by Assembly Member Isadore Hall, would erode flexibility currently granted public works departments working under the direction of their boards of supervisors to determine when it is most cost effective to utilize their own workforce for transportation projects. This authority, referred to as “road commissioner authority” has been in place since 1935. This remains vital to counties that are responsible for a vast and often time remote transportation network throughout California.

Over 30 counties are opposed to the bill, but it passed the Assembly Local Government Committee on a 7-0 vote with Assembly Members Rich Gordon and Mike Davis not voting for the bill. They should be thanked for their support for counties on this issue.

The bill as currently drafted would preclude the 33 counties currently under the Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Commission (CUCCAC) from exercising their road commissioner authority unless they convince all other county departments to withdraw from CUCCAC. Although the bill does attempt to exempt maintenance and emergency work, it is much more restrictive than road commissioner authority due to a fairly strict definition found in Public Contract Code Section 22002. 

There are several consequences with the loss of road commissioner authority. The first of which is increased cost for projects if we have to design and go out to bid. For many counties this also means paying a higher prevailing wage. Further, contracting out will also delay projects. Counties report saving 15 to 35 percent with the ability to perform the work in-house. Of even greater concern is the inability to maintain sufficient public works crew to respond to emergencies throughout the year without year around work. Unfortunately, these arguments did not deter support from the Assembly Local Government Committee members, with the exception of Assembly Members Gordon and Davis as mentioned above.

We understand the proponents are planning to take amendments in an attempt to avoid opposition from SEIU and AFSCME. Initial review of these amendments does not appear to address our concerns and we are working to understand the implications of the proposed amendments. They involve allowing counties within the CUCCAC the ability to perform up to 20 percent of new construction and reconstruction with their own workforce based on a formula that involves an annual adjustment based on force account work as reported to the State Controller with the exception of counting any maintenance work towards that calculation. Further explanation and a means for calculating what that will mean for your county is forthcoming. 

AB 720 will next go to the Assembly Floor for a vote as it is not considered to have a fiscal impact on the state. Counties need to make personal contact with their Legislator regarding the implications and opposition to AB 720.

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