2017 Legislative Summary
The focus of the public affairs program of the Master Builders of Iowa is derived from our Mission Statement, which reads:
“The essential resource for improving member performance and promoting a business environment favorable to the construction industry.”
With our Mission Statement as a guide, MBI’s lobbying efforts maintained a constant presence at the Iowa Capitol each and every day during the 2017 Legislative Session. MBI’s lobbyists saw nearly 1,000 different pieces of legislation being introduced and took time to review every bill to see what sort of impact, if any, each would have on the commercial construction industry in Iowa. MBI also participated in multiple committee and subcommittee meetings, often adding the “construction industry’s perspective” to the debate.
Elections have consequences and this fact became very apparent going into the 2017 legislative session. With Republicans maintaining control of the Iowa House and taking a majority in the Iowa Senate, new opportunities (and new challenges) were presented from a public policy perspective. The Republicans control the House (59-41), the Senate (29-20-1) and the governor’s office, which made MBI’s policy priorities take on a different perspective and allowed the lobbying team to focus on issues that traditionally have not moved under a split control legislature.
Below is a summary of just a few of our lobbying efforts and accomplishments from the 2017 Legislative Session.
Reduction in the Statute of Repose
With the Governor’s signature on April 13, 2017, Iowa’s longest in the nation statute of repose was reduced from 15 years to 8 years for commercial construction. MBI has been working to reduce the statute of repose on improvements to real property for the last seven years. We’ve had some success in each of those years, but invariably our efforts would stall due to the pressure that the Trial Lawyers and the Iowa State Bar Association would apply in the Iowa Senate. However, with a new Republican majority in the Senate and a Republican House and Governor, our chances were greatly improved this year as we found that the House and Senate leadership was much more sympathetic to the plight of the constructor.
With the passage of Senate File 413 and the Governor’s signature, all contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2017, will have the newly reformed repose parameters. It is important to note, contracts entered into prior to July 1, 2017, will in all likelihood remain under the 15 year repose period.
Prohibition on Government Mandated Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)
MBI has long advocated for a prohibition on government-mandated PLAs and disqualification policies in the area of competitive bidding on publicly-financed improvements. MBI’s history with PLAs has come full circle, starting with MBI suing Polk County in 2002 alleging the illegal aspects of the Iowa Events Center PLA. Unfortunately, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that under the laws of Iowa at the time of the lawsuit, PLAs were legal. With the signing of Senate File 438, Iowa law will leave little doubt that PLAs are no longer an option on public projects.
- Prohibits a public owner from entering into a government mandated project labor agreement (PLA)
- Prohibits a public owner from creating any sort of ordinance or rule that would require an interested bidder, as a condition of bidding, to submit a questionnaire that would divulge proprietary and / or confidential information.
Workers’ Compensation Reforms
MBI was part of a very large contingency of interest groups who were focused on the passage of House File 518, which would institute major reforms to Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws. The bill was signed into law by Governor Branstad on March 30, 2017.
Traditionally, Iowa has been able to strike the balance of granting injured workers some of the best benefits in the Midwest, while keeping premiums at - by comparison - very low levels. However, over the last decade this ratio has gotten out of balance. In 2006, Iowa's worker's compensation premiums were the 45th lowest in the country. By 2016, Iowa's costs had risen to 24th. Costs have increased tremendously due to recent decisions (both legal and administrative) that have jeopardized Iowa's position in relation to other surrounding states.
Preventing Infrastructure Funds from Being Diverted to Water Quality Cost-Share
MBI remained diligent in its efforts to prevent designated vertical infrastructure funds from being diverted for conservation and water quality cost-share programs. There were numerous House and Senate proposals being pushed by ag groups and environmental advocates that would have scooped over $135 million from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) in the next 9 years. Though water quality cost-share was one of the last pieces of legislation debated this year, the Legislature adjourned without taking any actions. Hence, vertical infrastructure funds were protected for now. It is expected that there will be another push for water quality in 2018 and MBI will monitor developments closely as it pertains to the RIIF fund.
Links of Interest
- Associated General Contractors of America
- Iowa General Assembly
- Iowa Law
- United States House of Representatives
- United States Senate