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The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council is celebrating the passage of one state law and mobilizing its supporters to urge governor Jerry Brown to sign another currently sitting on his desk.

Senate Bill 922, which passed 24-14 by the state senate and 52-27 in the assembly, authorizes local entities to enter into project labor agreements (PLAs) on construction projects as long as certain taxpayer protection provisions are employed. The bill also prevents cities that adopt anti-PLA ordinances from receiving state funding for construction projects. Locally, Chula Vista voted to ban the agreements in 2010. Brown signed the bill into law today.

PLAs guarantee the absence of work stoppages and safeguard against cost overruns, their supporters say. Opponents say that they limit the number of project bidders, as many non-union contractors are unwilling to submit bids on jobs where they’ll have to pay workers union-level wages and contribute to union pension plans, even if they have access to a labor pool willing to work for less. Both sides present arguments that claim their preferred contract form saves taxpayers money.

Brown attached a message upon signing the bill, clarifying that the intent of the law is not to force communities to use PLAs. "In fact, this bill preserves the right of all sides to debate what obviously is a hotly contested issue. Seems fair to me -- even democratic," wrote the governor.

Senate Bill 469 is currently waiting to be signed into law by Brown. Introduced by local Juan Vargas, the measure would require economic as well as environmental impact studies to be paid for and made publicly available by any entity intending to construct a “superstore,” such as a Walmart. The economic study would have to take into account expected impacts on existing businesses that might face competition from the new large-scale retailer. A public review and comment period on the economic report would also be required.

Walmart recently mounted a legal challenge against the City of San Diego concerning a similar requirement. When paid petitioners gathered enough signatures to force the issue to a public vote, the city weighed the cost of sponsoring a special election on the matter and decided instead to allow the store to proceed without providing the report.

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