Before the General Assembly went on recess, the House passed Senate Bill 35, referred to as the mini-Bond bill that reallocates capital funding that was passed last year among projects for the remainder of this fiscal year. The vote was 25-15-1, along party lines. The Senate similarly passed the bill 15-6 along party lines.
Why the partisan controversy?
Because this bill included the Community Workforce Agreement pilot program. The CWA pilot program is an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to ensure state contracts are equitably awarded to people who reflect the demographics of the state by stipulating requirements around union employees.
A 2022 study commissioned by the state of Delaware found that there are substantial disparities between the number of viable minority-owned, female-owned, and veteran-owned construction businesses — resulting in the use of women- or minority-owned businesses just 9% of the time. Since that report was released, Delaware lawmakers have sought to both diversify and localize the construction workforce hired for public works projects. Community workforce agreements (CWAs) one method to attempt to do so.
CWAs are pre-project agreements which govern the terms and conditions of labor workforce, community and minority participation for certain public works projects. The authorization of CWAs outlined in Senate Bill 35 will allow the state to enter into up to six CWAs between the State of Delaware and contractors. A maximum of two DelDOT projects will be included in the pilot program, while the Office of Management and Budget may authorize up to four.
In addition to securing a more diverse and localized workforce, CWAs are held to rigorous reporting standards which minimizes uncertainty surrounding the cost and timeline for public works projects. CWAs set upfront standards about their hiring practices, and provide a stable, highly-trained workforce to the local community. In order to measure their effectiveness, the Office of Management and Budget will provide annual reports to the Joint Capital Improvement Committee about the state of these pilot programs.
Republicans in the General Assembly attempted to pass several amendments that elimated the CWAs and certain project labor requirements in favor of utilizing Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) for equitable state projects. DBEs receive their distinction if they are majority owned by a socially or economically disadvantaged person. This includes businesses owned by women or racial groups who have been subjected to prejudice or discrimination.
|Senate Bill 35 – Mini-Bond Bill featuring Community Workforce Agreements||Currrent Status – Senate Passed 15-6. House Passed 25-15-1. Signed by Governor Carney|
|House Sponsors – Heffernan, Bush, Matthews, Osienski // Gray, Smith||Senate Sponsors – Walsh, Mantzavinos, Pinkney, Poore // Richardson, Wilson|
|House Yes Votes – Baumbach Bolden Bush Carson Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Heffernan Johnson Lambert Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Romer Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton||Senate Yes Votes – Brown, Gay, Hansen, Hoffner, Huxtable, Lockman, Mantzavinos, McBride, Paradee, Pinkney, Poore, Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend, Walsh|
|House No Votes – Chukwuocha // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Senate No Votes – Buckson, Hocker, Lawson, Pettyjohn, Richardson, Wilson|
|House Absents or Not Voting – Longhurst||Senate Absent or Not Voting – None|
Senator Jack Walsh, who chairs the Joint Capital Improvement Committee, says that the workforce agreement component of Senate Bill 35 is the product of negotiations after legislation permanently creating a CWA framework was unsuccessful last year. The pilot program aims to address stakeholder concerns raised during that process.
“When we invest in Delaware’s infrastructure, we create jobs. When we create jobs, we want to be sure that Delawareans are the ones getting hired. At its core, a Community Workforce Agreement is mechanism for expanding access to jobs and increasing the quality of those jobs — especially for underrepresented communities,” said Sen. Walsh. “Neighboring states that have implemented CWAs have reported a range of successes from controlling construction costs, to ensuring fair wages and worker protections, to catalyzing the local workforce.”
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