Legislative Update - Week of May 14, 2012

Mechanics Lien Law

Changes to Mechanics Lien and Stop Notices Effective July 1, 2012


The California Legislature has enacted Senate Bill 189 which incorporates extensive changes to the statutory framework governing works of improvement, including the sections pertaining to mechanic's liens and stop notices. Protect your lien rights by becoming familiar with the changes being implemented. The changes effected by SB 189 are effective July 1, 2012, so there is still time to absorb the new lien laws. For more information click here.



Lawmakers Send Letter to USCIS Seeking
Review Process for E-Verify Nonconfirmations


Thirty-nine Democratic House members May 1 sent a letter to the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting the creation of a review process that would allow workers to contest erroneous final declarations of employment ineligibility issued under the E-Verify program.


The letter to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, spearheaded by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), urged USCIS to enable workers to challenge E-Verify's erroneous final nonconfirmations (FNCs) through a "transparent" review process. E-Verify is the federal government's electronic employment verification program.

Allowing workers to contest FNCs is "critical-particularly for low-income citizens unfairly harmed by E-Verify-and would address one of the program's most significant weaknesses," the letter said.


USCIS spokesman Bill Wright told BNA May 2 that the agency has received the letter and that Mayorkas "will be responding directly to the Members regarding their concerns at the appropriate time."


Letter Points to System's Deficiencies

Participation in E-Verify is required in many states and "more states are likely to mandate the use of E-Verify in the coming year," according to the letter.


This is problematic because the program is "seriously flawed," the lawmakers wrote. They cited a 2009 Westat study and USCIS data indicating that 0.5 percent of all FNCs are erroneous.

Because employers are legally obligated to terminate any worker who is issued an FNC, and considering that there were more than 17 million E-Verify queries in fiscal year 2011, the program's faults may have caused up to 85,000 people to lose their jobs, the letter said.

"Even more troublingly, in states where participation in E-Verify is mandatory, an erroneous FNC will likely serve as a total bar to obtaining employment," the House members wrote.

The letter added that E-Verify errors disproportionately impact minorities, as the system's error rates are 30 times higher for naturalized U.S. citizens and 50 times higher for legal nonimmigrants than for native-born U.S. citizens.

"We owe it to workers to establish a simple, transparent process for fixing these mistakes," Roybal-Allard said in a separate statement. "As it stands now, far from being a solution to our immigration challenges, E-Verify is simply another example of why our immigration system is so badly broken."

Among the letter's signatories are Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, and committee members Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Theodore Deutch (D-Fla.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico), and Jared Polis (D-Colo.).


House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) has introduced a bill (H.R. 2885) that would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers nationwide. The bill was approved by the committee in September (57 CLR 974, 9/29/11), but has not advanced to the House floor.


Rights Group Applauds Letter

Emily Tulli, a policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said in a May 1 statement that she supports the request for a review process.

Tulli criticized E-Verify for denying job opportunities to tens of thousands of individuals without giving them any recourse in the case of system errors.


"Because of glitches in the government program, hardworking citizens and lawful immigrants are unfairly denied work and robbed of a way to provide for their families," Tulli said. "Director Mayorkas should heed Congress' advice, ensure a fair review process, and remove this hurdle to employment."


Project Labor Agreements

House Democrats Tout Infrastructure
Proposals, PLAs at Contractor Conference


House Democrats Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) and Gerry Connolly (Va.) May 3 highlighted the need to create construction jobs through nationwide infrastructure upgrades and the importance of promoting project labor agreements on federal projects.

"Infrastructure is critical to the success of the country," Connolly said during the Quality Construction Alliance National Issues Conference.


Both Connolly and Kaptur expressed support for passing a long-term funding program for transportation infrastructure projects. The representatives also discussed how PLAs ensure quality and lower costs on federal construction projects.


Kaptur, Connolly Pan Anti-PLA Legislation

"We have many in Congress who are fighting against [PLAs], and we really don't want that," Kaptur said.


The proposed Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (H.R. 735), introduced by Republican John Sullivan (R-Okla.), would prohibit federal agencies from requiring PLAs on construction projects (57 CLR 488, 6/9/11). The bill was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February 2011 and currently has 176 co-sponsors.

"There's nothing really neutral about that bill at all," Kaptur said. "I think that enforceable project labor agreements are part of progress."


Connolly, who is a member of the oversight committee, agreed with Kaptur, saying a PLA is "a practical tool that brings labor and management together."


The QCA is an organization comprised of contractor associations that support union-friendly policies, including prevailing wages, PLAs, and union pension programs. The coalition is made up of the Mechanical Contractors Association, The Association of Union Constructors, the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association, and the International Council of Employers of Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers.


Governor Signs Bill on Funding Ban
For Public Works Projects in Anti-PLA Cities


California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) April 26 signed legislation that clarifies a prohibition on state funding for construction projects in municipalities with ordinances that restrict the use of project labor agreements.


S.B. 829 by Sen. Michael Rubio (D) clarifies a law (S.B. 922) that took effect in January 2012. Under the new law, cities that apply their PLA restrictions to any project cannot receive state funds for that project or any others, according to the State Building Trades and Construction Council. SBCTC has supported the law, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2013.

S.B. 829 was opposed by the Associated Builders and Contractors. It went to Brown's desk April 20 (58 CLR 295, 4/26/12).


The measure applies to Fresno, Oceanside, and Chula Vista, which are three charter cities that have adopted ordinances restricting use of PLAs on city projects. It also could apply to San Diego if voters there approve a measure on the ballot in June to prohibit the city from requiring contractors to use PLAs on city construction projects.


Palmdale Repeals PLA Ban

In response to the law, the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors April 29 rescinded an earlier resolution (Resolution 10-20) prohibiting PLAs on its contracting jobs.

Resolution 10-20, passed in October 2010 (56 CLR 1097, 11/4/10), amended Appendix M of the bid procurement and change order policy "to include provisions prohibiting the requirement of project labor agreements and other anticompetitive measures."

S.B. 922 was cited in agenda documents as the reason for the board of directors' unanimous decision to rescind Resolution 10-20.


The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, a group that fights PLAs throughout the state, attributed the decision to a change in the board's composition wrought by recent elections. Palmdale is a desert city of 144,000 people located about 30 miles northeast of Los Angeles.