Three county supervisors reversed their earlier positions and voted today to spend $100,000 on a November ballot measure that would, if passed, reaffirm the county’s current contracting policies.

In February, only Bill Horn supported a ballot measure that would ban the county from requiring the use of project labor agreements on construction projects. The board has never required project labor agreements, and Horn wanted to see that legacy continue by amending the county charter.

But his colleagues rejected the ballot idea back then, concerned that it would not be a prudent use of taxpayer money. Instead, they voted unanimously to make it county policy, avoiding the ballot.

On Tuesday, Horn proposed the same ballot measure, but this time around, received the support of Ron Roberts, Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price. Roberts didn’t address his change of heart. Greg Cox called the board’s previous action sufficient and voted against putting the issue on the ballot again.

Both Horn and Roberts will be facing runoff elections this November after narrowly missing outright victories in the June primary. Elsewhere in the county, ballot measures to ban project labor agreements have been financed mainly by business groups. The county’s labor groups have supported the use of project labor agreements.

A project labor agreement is generally a pact between labor unions and a government entity in which the government promises workplace benefits on a project in exchange for a union’s promise to prevent strikes. Both union and nonunion contractors can bid on projects using project labor agreements, but opponents argue that they deter some contractors and reduce bid competition.

Ballot battles over project labor agreements have been previously fought in Oceanside, Chula Vista and until recently, San Diego. City Councilman Carl DeMaio proposed a ballot measure that would have banned project labor agreements as part of a package to drastically change the city’s contracting policies. In June, election officials said DeMaio’s campaign failed to gather enough valid signatures to qualify his proposal for the November ballot.

At Tuesday’s supervisors meeting, both construction and labor groups echoed the same arguments they made in February. Labor groups called spending $100,000 on the ballot measure a waste of taxpayer money. Business groups supported putting the issue in the hands of voters. As an ordinance, the ban could be overturned by three supervisors in the future. If approved by voters, it would have to be overturned by voters.

In February, Dianne Jacob said she supported putting the issue before voters, but wanted to finish the county’s budget — which eliminates 517 vacant positions and may lay off 62 workers — before spending $100,000 on a ballot measure. “Then we would have the opportunity to stack that up against” other options, she said.


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