Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-37) has introduced legislation that would allow transportation agencies “to prioritize hiring local residents for highway and transit projects.” According to a press release issued by the Congresswoman’s office, the “Local Hire Act,” introduced last Friday, will make it easier to “generate jobs in the very counties and states where their transportation projects are located, while preserving competition and cost effectiveness.”

Currently, federal procurement regulations do not permit agencies, like Metro, to require bidders to establish local hiring or purchasing programs or to take such programs and local hiring directly into account in the bid evaluation process. The historical rationale for this prohibition is that the federal gas tax (18.4 cents per gallon) is collected from around the nation so all Americans and American companies should be able to be employed by any given project.

But last year the LA Metro Board voted to permit transportation agencies to establish local hiring programs in proportion to the share of a given project's total cost that is being paid for with local funds. Proponents argued that the current federal procurement regulation does not take into account the reality of how transportation projects are financed today, as in Los Angeles where most of the funding comes from a local source.

Upon hearing the news Metro Board Chair Diane DuBois said she believes this  change in federal hiring regulations would be especially important now -- given the high rate of unemployment in California and in Los Angeles County specifically, where the rate continues to hover above 10 percent.

The Local Hire Act is currently being supported by Congressmembers Henry Waxman (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), and Tim Bishop (D-NY). Bass represents South Los Angeles, West Los Angeles and Culver City.

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