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Ban municipal residency quotas on engineers, contractors, ACEC Ohio urges legislators

Cities should be prohibited from forcing engineering and construction firms to hire a quota of city residents as a condition of competing for contracts, ACEC Ohio told a committee of the Ohio House of Representatives Tuesday.

Testifying before the House Commerce & Labor Committee as a proponent of House Bill 180, ACEC Ohio Executive Director Don Mader said allowing municipalities to set residency quotas for companies seeking city contracts would force engineering firms to "discriminate for or against employees based merely on their place of residence."

During his testimony, Mader cited the city of Akron's recently announced "Local Hiring & Diversity Goals," which require engineering firms to employ 35 percent Akron residents by 2018 and to ensure that "66 percent of all hours worked (including subconsultant work) on a particular project [are] to be performed by employees paying city of Akron income tax."

"What these residency requirements mandate is that, instead of assigning the firm’s most highly qualified technical experts to the design of a particular project, the engineering firm’s first consideration must be to make sure that two-thirds of the work is performed by city taxpayers," Mader said.  These mandates are in direct conflict with the state's Qualifications-Based Selection law, he added. 

That law "requires that when a local government seeks to contract with an engineering firm to design a public works project, that contract award must be made to the 'most highly qualified firm,' based on a defined set of criteria – and where the employees of competing engineering firms live is not listed as a qualification factor that may be considered in the evaluation process," he said.

Perhaps the most unfair aspect of such municipal residency requirements is that courts have ruled the U.S. Constitution bars their enforcement against out-of-state companies and their employees, he noted, which clearly puts Ohio firms and their employees at a competitive disadvantage.

Also testifying in favor of the legislation or providing written testimony, were the Ohio Contractors Association, Associated General Contractors of Ohio, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18, the National Electrical Contractors Association, Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association, Mechanical Contractors Association of Ohio, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Transportation Advocacy Group of Northwest Ohio.

To view the testimony of any of these groups, click here and then click on the date May 19.

Hearings on the legislation are expected to continue following the General Assembly's Memorial Day Holiday break.

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