construction.JPGThe state Assembly bill that would negate San Francisco’s local hire law — which requires city-funded construction projects to hire city residents — cleared a state Assembly committee on Tuesday, but its chances on the full Assembly floor are slim, the bill’s opponents said.

Authored by Assemblymember Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, AB 356 would prohibit any locality — such as a city or county — from requiring local residents be hired on city-funded projects located outside of city limits (such as on San Francisco International Airport or on the Hetch-Hetchy Aqueduct, both of which are San Francisco city departments). An earlier version of the bill also required a city to pay more for a project receiving both state and local funds if that city had a local-hire law, but that restriction was removed following widespread opposition.

Hill’s bill cleared a state Assembly committee by a 5-0 vote on Tuesday, but only one other Democrat voted with Hill to send the bill forward; others abstained. And that Democrat, Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, said, “I’m not saying I would vote for this if it ever makes it to the actual Assembly floor, I’m saying that I want these questions answered and this dialogue between the cities to continue.”

Without Democratic support, the bill is doomed, said Joshua Arce, a civil rights attorney and chief proponent of the city’s local-hire law, along with law author Supervisor John Avalos. “This bill cannot pass with just Republican support,” he said.

The bill appears unpopular in other major California cities. The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution opposing AB 356 last week. The State Building Trades Council, an
influential labor group, said it has no stance on the bill.

Hill could not be reached for comment. Aurelio Rojas, Hill’s press secretary, did not comment on the record Tuesday, and did not respond to a list of questions emailed to him Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement released Wednesday, Rojas directed attention to two points: that projects at the San Francisco International Airport and on the Hetch-Hetchy Aqueduct system — both well outside of city limits — would be subjected to the local hire law unless AB 356 overturned them, and that Los Angeles’s City Council opposed the earlier draft of the bill with the state funding restriction, not the current one.

“San Francisco not only has the toughest [local hire law] in the country, it also extends 70 miles outside of the city’s geographical boundaries,” the statement read.

Hill is eying a run for state Senate in 2014, as the Hill for Senate 2014 campaign committee registered at the Secretary of State’s office would indicate. The seat could open up even earlier, should state Senator Leland Yee — whose district, the Eighth, includes nearly all of San Mateo County — be successful in his bid for San Francisco mayor. When and if Hill runs for Yee’s seat, he’ll have to explain to San Franciscans why he spent so much time and energy opposing a bill intended to give them jobs, and that will be a hard sell, Arce predicted.

“Jerry Hill is creating an acrimonious atmosphere,” Arce said. “With the array of organizations around the state, including civil rights groups, union members, and other organizations representing people of color and people with disadvantaged backgrounds, the question is, ‘Who wants to line up against this diverse coalition of community stakeholders?'”

Not Mayor Ed Lee, who sent a letter opposing Hill’s bill to the Assembly as well as a member of his staff to Sacramento to testify against the bill. Spokespeople for Lee did not immediately respond to a request for a copy of the letter.

Hill appears dead-set on seeing this bill through. Why would he do so, with seemingly little to gain and much to lose, especially if he seeks to represent the very people whose hiring law he wishes to strike down?

“He’s just grandstanding,” Supervisor John Avalos, who penned San Francisco’s local hire legislation, that which AB356 seeks to dismantle, opined. “He knows the writing is on the wall.”

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