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Charleston Daily Mail
A bill that changes prevailing wage in West Virginia is on its way to the full House of Delegates. The House Government Organization Committee on Wednesday voted 17-8 with only one Democrat voting yes to report the bill to the floor. Senate Bill 361 seeks to modify how prevailing wage rates are calculated, calling on WorkForce West Virginia to work with economic research bureaus from West Virginia University and Marshall University to determine a methodology for determining the new rate. A committee substitute for the bill gives the team a July 1 deadline to establish that criteria, but some on the committee argued that’s just not enough time. “I was an economics major. There’s a lot that goes into this, a lot of considerations,” Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, said. “To put a deadline that I look at as pretty radical, pretty quick, will make it almost impossible to do this data collection and determine the matrix they want to use. “I don’t see any practical way we can have the rates set by July 1 with everything that has to go into this. I think we have some issues here.” Jennifer Shand, director of the Center of Business and Economic Research at Marshall, told the committee she’s confident her team can “absolutely” meet that deadline. “We manage multiple projects in our office,” she said. “This would be among the projects we would manage. It would fall into the queue and have high priority.” Democrats tried several times to either push back or eliminate that deadline. The committee amendment that set the July 1 deadline says if the deadline is not met, prevailing wage in West Virginia will not be in effect until the team of economists makes its recommendations because current law also is repealed under the amendment. That troubled some delegates. “There is a chance we could be without prevailing wage for a time period if this amendment is left in,” Marcum said. Delegate Jim Morgan, D-Cabell, offered two separate amendments to change the deadline. The first would have removed the July 1 deadline completely, and the second attempt moved the deadline to Sept. 30. An amendment from Marcum would have pushed the deadline back to Aug. 1. All three were soundly rejected. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on folks,” Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said in support of the amendments. “They could come out of this thing with some unintended consequences. I think a little more time would be beneficial to everyone.” The bill came from the Senate with a $500,000 threshold for projects, meaning only public projects totaling $500,000 or more would be subject to prevailing wage. An amendment from Delegate Mike Ferro, D-Marshall, would have lowered that to $250,000. “West Virginia along with Maryland would have the highest threshold in the nation at $500,000, which almost is akin to total repeal, at least in my opinion,” Ferro said. “The effect of such a high threshold is great.” Committee counsel Tracy Webb agreed Maryland does have one of the highest thresholds in the region while Ohio has a much lower one at around $100,000. “It varies,” she said. An amendment from Caputo would have established a second-tier threshold of $100,000 for smaller projects, but that amendment also was rejected. “I’ve gotten several calls from small contractors,” Caputo said. “One is a man who employs 12 to 15 people, a non-union company who believes the threshold is so high he won’t be able to keep his employees. “This is for the little guy. We all want to protect small business.” Delegate Rupie Phillips, D-Logan, was the only Democrat to vote in favor of passing the bill to the full House. If the legislation stays on schedule, the bill will see a vote early next week. Contact writer Whitney Burdette at 304-348-5149 or whitney.burdette@dailymailwv.com. Follow her at www.Twitter.com/wburdette_DM.