On March 14, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced the Fair and Open Competition Act (S. 622) to prevent federal agencies and recipients of federal funding from requiring contractors to sign controversial project labor agreements (PLAs) as a condition of winning federal or federally assisted construction contracts. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) introduced a companion bill (H.R. 1552) in the U.S. House of Representatives that was reported favorably out of committee March 28.

A coalition of 14 construction industry and business associations led by Associated Builders and Contractors sent a letter to the House and Senate in support of the bill, stating it will create a level playing field, increase competition, generate more construction jobs, reduce favoritism in the procurement process and help taxpayers get the best possible project at the best possible price.

A total of 23 states—21 since 2010—have passed similar measures ensuring fair and open competition on state and local projects. This year, a number of states are advancing similar bills, such as Wisconsin’s S.B. 3, which was signed April 17 and bans government-mandated PLAs on state and local construction contracts. In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed a bill (S.F. 438) codifying an executive order he issued in 2011 that prohibits government-mandated PLAs on projects that receive state funds. In Texas, passage of H.B. 648 and S.B. 452 would prohibit government-mandated PLAs on state-funded projects. The Missouri legislature is considering a bill (S.B. 182) that would extend protections against anti-competitive and costly government-mandated PLAs to all state and state-funded projects. S.B. 182 would expand existing Missouri law that currently prohibits PLAs on state projects that receive more than 50 percent of their funding from the state. Other states that have introduced bills ensuring government neutrality in contracting include Nebraska, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Washington.