Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; March 14, 2013:
Republicans ram through anti-local, anti-worker legislation in race to the bottom for working families
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Republicans rammed through legislation this morning that is designed to help wealthy special interests by taking money out of the pockets of working families and eliminating the ability of local elected officials to negotiate local contracts.
“It is absolutely shameful the way Republicans are shutting down debate and shutting out the voice of working men and women in this state,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “These are important issues that will have a dramatic impact on local governments for years to come, and we shouldn’t rush it through just because the majority doesn’t like criticism.”
During the debate, Chairman Casada repeatedly complained about not wanting to debate the merits of setting a local prevailing wage, instead wanting to talk solely about how limiting local control of wage and benefit standards will promote his vision of ‘economic freedom’, and his contention that local government is the problem that Republicans are trying to address. Despite numerous representatives having requested the ability to speak on the bill, House Republicans called the question, cut off all debate, and took a vote early.
“Chairman Casada is acting like nothing more than a thief in the night, trying to steal food from the mouths of working people in order to give it back to wealthy special interests,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “The level of contempt that this Republican majority has for local governments and working people is simply disgusting.”
HB501 by Chairman Casada strips the authority of local governments to protect against wage theft, and ensure construction workers and contract employees have livable wages and benefits. This legislation is a prelude to HB850 by Rep. Marsh which will weaken state prevailing wage rates and lower standards in government contracts.
Shelby County is currently the only local government that sets a prevailing wage and benefits standard. Rep. Larry Miller sought to exempt Shelby County from this legislation in order to maintain the current standards, however Republicans tabled that amendment.
“We have a situation in Memphis where out-of-state businesses often bid on contracts worth millions of dollars in local taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers in our city have chosen to use that opportunity to ensure that local residents earn a decent living before these out-of-state contractors take profits out of the state,” said Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis). “How can we say that it is a good thing for residents of Memphis and Shelby County to have a lower standard of living so that big contractors can take more of their tax dollars out of state?”