Senate OKs Padden bills on construction costs, community custody

With only about 48 hours until its next deadline for voting on legislation the state Senate spent Monday afternoon and evening moving dozens of bills forward, including a diverse pair of measures introduced by Sen. Mike Padden. One would save money when it comes to housing construction while the second would address an unforeseen consequence of the marijuana-legalization ballot measure passed in November.padden_pq

The construction cost-savings bill could be particularly good news for advocates of low-income housing, Padden said.

“It’s just common sense: if 10 percent of a mixed-use construction project is commercial space and 90 percent is residential space, then the higher prevailing wage for commercial construction should only apply to 10 percent,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley, who captured that practical, proportional approach in Senate Bill 5017.

Padden cited as an example a low-income housing project under construction in the Spokane area. The state Department of Labor and Industries forced the builder to pay the higher commercial-construction prevailing wage on the entire project even though only the first floor, amounting to about 11 percent of the total floor space, would be for commercial use. That double-digit-percentage difference in wages added more than a half-million dollars to the cost of the project and just about derailed it, he said.

“I realize people in organized labor worry anytime they see a bill referring to ‘prevailing wage,’ but this measure is no threat – it would simply connect the appropriate prevailing wage to the type of construction being done,” Padden said. “If anything I hope this will help bring proposed public-housing projects in at less cost, which would make those projects more viable and maybe help low-income people get some affordable places to live. If it puts more construction workers back onto a job site, so much the better.”

Senate Bill 5010, meanwhile, would reconcile the new marijuana-legalization law with the authority judges have to order offenders not to use marijuana while in community custody.

Under the bill a court’s discretion would be limited if an offender has a lawfully issued medical-marijuana authorization – unless the state Department of Corrections determines that marijuana use is inconsistent with or contrary to that offender’s supervision, Padden said.

The Senate has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to take action on senators’ bills, except those that will be closely tied to the new state operating budget lawmakers must adopt. Starting Thursday the Senate’s 15 committees will consider legislation passed by the House of Representatives.