Fresno and Clovis took two approaches when it came to opposing a state bill that the building industry says could push new homes out of reach for most buyers. While the Clovis council easily opposed the bill and is registered its view with the state Assembly, Fresno did not. Even though Fresno Mayor Lee Brand sent his own letter in opposition, the council as a whole punted.
AB 199, authored by San Jose Democrat Assemblyman Kansen Chu with help from the labor unions, would extend higher wages to workers on private home building projects. His bill, some interpret, would consider privately built home projects as a public works project. That would trigger a law already in place to pay the workers at a prevailing wage scale, which experts say is higher than the market rate that is usually in effect.
The Clovis city council, at its March 6 meeting, spent 11 minutes debating the issue. After hearing a report from staff, they voted unanimously, 3-0, to oppose AB 199.
Meanwhile, the Fresno council at its March 23 meeting, five council members chose not to decide. The motion to oppose received only two votes in favor, from its sponsors Garry Bredefeld and Steve Brandau. The remaining members abstained. That meant the motion to oppose AB 199 failed.
Bredefeld said home buying is expensive enough and AB 199 would make it worse. “We are trying to help people afford housing. This would price many, many people out of the housing market. It’s important to let Sacramento know that Fresno disagrees with AB 199.”
Five business leaders and members in the building community urged the council to oppose AB 199. Jon Casey, a contractor who employs about 30 workers in Fresno, says AB 199 would put him out of business.
Clint Olivier, the council president, said he opposes AB 199, but would not register a vote. He read of a list of Sacramento bills that he objected to, from an increase in gas tax to outlawing fake news. “This council could spend hours upon hours…taking a stand on these items. I don’t think it’s a good use for this body’s time. There are state legislators to weigh in on these kinds of things.”
He announced his new policy that he would not vote to oppose or support a bill unless an elected official asked council to do so. Olivier’s stance is consistent: he abstained on allowing the council to debate a position on SB 54, the sanctuary state law (council voted to pull it from the agenda earlier in the meeting).
“I am very disappointed,” Casey told GV Wire of five council members abstaining. “I think this is one issue to where regardless of party affiliation everybody could come together on it. I believe it is bad for all of Fresno.”
“This will be catastrophic for the local building industry,” Mike Prandini, president of the local Building Industry Association told the Clovis council.
Luis Chavez, in a text to GV Wire, explains he is taking a wait and see approach. “I abstained due to the final bill still being developed. I understand that the building industry is still meeting with stakeholders and the final draft won’t be ready until after those meetings.”
Oliver Baines, also in a text to GV Wire cites similar reasons to Chavez. “There may be a draft of a proposal, but it is not complete nor is it being proposed. (There is) no need to vote on nothing.”
The only debate in the Clovis council was about whether the League of California Cities was taking a position on AB 199.
AB 199 passed its first Assembly committee, Labor and Employment, earlier this month. It heads to the Assembly appropriation committee next, but no hearing date is set. The next time they meet is April 5.
Contact David Taub
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This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.