Legislature Working to Increase Construction Regulation Authority
Construction bills in an Oregon legislative session are typically focused on prevailing wage,
apprenticeship, and public contracting. However, this year dollars in federal spending bills come
attached to their own set-in-stone standards.
Oregon legislative leaders are instead focusing their efforts on expanding state agency
enforcement powers and holding general contractors accountable for unpaid wages.
Oregon OSHA is slated to gain new enforcement powers, a significant increase in fines or
penalties for violations of state regulations, and a new “three strikes” policy. Under the
provisions of SB 582, a business that has three violations in a year could be subject to new
oversight and fines. After the big bump in fine amounts, they will increase annually.
The Construction Contractor’s Board (CCB) will also have new tools to address “bad actors” and
new laws to get at repeat violators. SB 228 would allow CCB to dig deeper into a business’s
organizational structure to see if there is a revolving door of people who are not following the
law using the cover of new businesses.
And the largest expansion of power would occur at the State Building Code Divisions, where SB
869 aims to add new regulatory powers to reduce greenhouse gases through building permits.
Legislative leaders want new emission limits, new green product mandates, and elimination of
high-carbon intensive materials such as concrete to be enforced as part of the building permit
A bit of good news for the construction trade can be found in HB 2870 that will allow
contractors to use surety bonds to satisfy owner hold-back or “retainage” provisions. The bill
provides a new tool for contractors at all levels to satisfy owner retention of up to 5% of the
contract in reserve. Allowing the use of a bond in lieu of cash may be more efficient and less
costly than escrow accounts or other means of withholding.
One of the more hotly contested bills is HB 2057, which creates joint and individual liability for
general contractors for the unpaid or improper classified wages by sub-contractors or labor
brokers. Proponents argue previous efforts to increase enforcement have not worked and the
only solution is to make the general contractor responsible for the actions of lower-level
employers on the job site. Contractor groups opposed to the bill have brought up legal and
fairness questions and suggest that this approach will limit the subcontractors a general
contractor will be willing to work with, in turn impacting local and small business access to
At this point in the session, the OSHA and CCB bill appear headed for passage while other bills
impacting construction are still under consideration. With advocates on either side hoping they
get their views supported by Oregon’s democratically controlled legislature, the last two
months of session should be interesting for the construction industry.