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05/23/2024 08:45 PM
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: August 31, 2023 01:02 PM
From: Senator Cris Dush
To: All Senate members
Subject: Modernizing Pennsylvania's Separations Act
Soon, I will introduce legislation that will give state and local government entities the ability to use project delivery methods outside of the Separations Act.

The Separations Act was passed in 1913 and requires public entities to solicit and award separate contracts for general trades, plumbing, heating/ventilation, and electrical work. Acts like it passed in several states because of corruption issues in the early 1900s. In Pennsylvania, there was a scandal where money was grafted from the construction of the State Capitol in 1906. It led to the jailing of the architect who designed the capitol, the Superintendent of Public Ground and Buildings, and even the Auditor General. The scandal also led to the Separations Act in Pennsylvania. The idea was that the multiple contractors would police each other and hold each other accountable. In modern times, the scandal that led to the Separations Act is no longer possible because of increased transparency and oversight of state funds and the Separations Act just makes projects more complicated and expensive. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the only state to not yet modernize the Separations Act.

The Separations Act makes it so that the public body awarding contracts must serve as the general contractor and oversee deliverables, control pay, manage relationships between contractors, resolve contractual disputes between contractors, subject itself to increased contractual liability, and coordinate overall project design. The public body must keep all the contractors on schedule and coordinate the schedules of all the contractors. In practice, this makes it so that the weakest link on the project slows down the entire project. This, of course, is a contributor to projects being behind schedule and over budget.

This legislation will not prohibit public bodies from utilizing the current mandated multiple prime project delivery method per the Separations Act. It will simply provide public bodies with the option to consider additional proven project delivery methods that may better meet their needs and save taxpayer dollars. There is no perfect construction delivery method and an agency’s priorities (cost, quality, time, safety, etc.) vary from project to project. The government entity should have the opportunity to select the most appropriate delivery method, especially because taxpayers are funding the work.

This effort is supported by a broad coalition that consists of business organizations such as the Aviation Council of Pennsylvania, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses- PA Chapter, the PA Chamber of Business & Industry, and the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce; construction unions such as Cement Masons Local Union 526, Cement Masons Local Union 592, Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, Pennsylvania Laborers’ District Council, International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union 542, International Union of Operating Engineers Local Union 66; construction associations such as Association of Responsible & Ethical Procurement, Carpenter Contractor Trust, Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania, Construction Legislative Council of Western PA, Design Build Institute of America, DBIA Alleghenies, General Contractors Association of PA, General Building Contractors Association, Keystone Contractors Association, Master Builders’ Association of Western PA, and National Utility Contractors Association – PA Chapter; educational organizations such as PA Association of Rural & Small Schools, PA Association of School Administrators, PA Association of School Business Officials, PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools, PA Principals Association, and PA School Boards Association; government organizations such as Allegheny County Housing Authority, County Commissioners Association of PA, PA Municipal Authorities Association PA Municipal League, PA State Association of Boroughs, PA State Association of Township Commissioners, and PA State Association of Township Supervisors; and sustainability organizations such as Green Building Alliance, Green Building United, and U.S. Green Building Council Central PA.

The long list of coalition members indicates how important this issue is, and, with that in mind, I respectfully ask you to join me in cosponsoring this important, broadly supported legislation.

Introduced as SB957