In today’s construction news, read about how this year, Oregon legislators allowed a $90 million cost overrun for a Capitol remodeling project, increasing costs by almost 25% covertly. On the other hand, after the governor revoked obligatory breaks in the midst of the heat wave, outdoor employees expressed their rage and anxiety about possible consequences.

Construction on the Oregon Capitol is Covertly $90 Million Over Budget

Original Source: Oregon Capitol Construction Quietly Edges $90 Million Over Budget

This year, Oregon lawmakers discreetly accepted a $90 million Capitol remodeling cost overrun, increasing spending by roughly 25%.

 Oregon lawmakers quietly accepted a $90 million Capitol remodeling cost overrun this year, increasing spending by roughly 25%.

On Tuesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that committee hearings and written evidence did not include the late-session budget legislation’ extra expenses.

The provisions, which would cost taxpayers about $465 million for a $375 million job, were passed without debate.

After OPB requested it, a project homepage was amended to reflect the new cost.

The state’s top two lawmakers said public hearings on expense overruns were unnecessary. House Speaker Dan Rayfield’s office claimed the Capitol reconstruction was approved last session and that even a $100 million increase didn’t need mention.

“Capital projects typically incur normal shifts in cost estimates, and so updates to the initial estimate were anticipated,” a Rayfield, D-Corvallis, spokesperson stated in an email.

Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, stated the increased spending followed their standard review routine.

The media source didn’t hear back from the budget-writing committee’s two Democrats or the two members who chaired the subcommittee that approved the expenditure.

Republican critics of Capitol expenditures claim the refurbishment project is hard to track.

“We’ve been very frustrated with the lack of transparency,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, a budget committee member. “Any tax dollar needs a conversation about why and how it’s spent.”

Since 2016, politicians have used tax revenues that exceeded economists’ forecasts to renovate the statehouse.

The first two phases updated building systems, improved entrances, and seismically retrofitted office wings.

Last year, lawmakers approved the third phase of updating the 1938 structure that houses the House and Senate chambers and governor, state treasurer, and secretary of state offices.

In addition to seismic and safety enhancements, including sprinkler systems, the third phase will contain four hearing rooms, a café, and lobbyist and journalist work spaces.

The Capitol’s legislative administrator, Brett Hanes, said, “We have a duty to complete it so that the result is a strong, sustainable building that maintains historical features, is safe for occupants, and allows regular legislative work to continue.”

Project managers claim cost increases have various causes. State budget writers’ documents reveal inflation represents more than $27 million of the $90 million rise.

Hanes said the project now includes strengthening the Capitol’s Art Deco dome, upgrading sound systems, and replacing elevators.

Taxpayers spent $20 million to keep the Capitol’s loudest construction from disrupting this year’s legislative session.

Noise mitigation may be worth $20 million.

“If they were charging us not to make noise during hearings, that was epic fail,” said Knopp. “Teeth rattled.” You have to shout into the microphone while on the floor.”

Knopp also opposed hosting this year’s session in a hearing room to speed up Senate chamber activity. Project managers estimated a six-month delay.

Knopp, who led his party on a six-week boycott this year for unrelated reasons, said, “They obviously were working around us for most of the session.”

State building project funding looks to lack transparency because officials don’t have to account for rising costs. Staffers said budget writers knew about the hikes, but no budget committee member requested an explanation.

“(Informational hearings) were held during the earlier phases of the project and the public is aware of its ongoing nature,” Rayfield spokesman Hazel Tylinski said in an email. She said top lawmakers and budget staffers “reviewed the cost estimate materials provided to ensure the project could complete construction.”

Public budgeting specialist Benjamin Clark, a University of Oregon public policy professor, suggested increased transparency. Clark also argued for Rayfield’s point.

“From the most generous of views… the people who put it there would say, ‘We’ve already approved it, we’re just trying to get it done,’” he added.

Lawmakers’ budget process has been criticized. Last year, former Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, called the budget “a document entirely developed outside of the public view.”

Wilde stated, “The Oregon Constitution requires the public’s business to be conducted publicly, however inconvenient that might be.”

Texas Employees Protest the Removal of Water Breaks

Original Source: ‘The cruelty Olympics’: Texas workers condemn elimination of water breaks

Eva Marroquin cleans Austin construction sites in 100F (38C) heat. Marroquin has scorching temperatures at 8:30 a.m. in summer. She wears suffocating protective gear.

She has witnessed workers faint in severe weather and has suffered heat exhaustion at least three times in her career. She stated she would get flushed in the face, feel tired, and have a racing heart. Marroquin takes water breaks to relax.

Austin legislation requires pauses. During a record-breaking heatwave, the Texas governor signed a bill to end required rest and water breaks for construction workers in September. Outdoor laborers like Marroquin are furious and afraid of repercussions.

“Inhumane and cruel,” Marroquin remarked through a translator. A break is a basic human right.

“Progressive municipal officials and agencies have made Texas small businesses jump through contradictory and confusing hoops,” a Republican who presented the bill said.

It garnered national notice. The mayor of San Antonio and Joe Biden blasted the “Death Star” bill during a White House event.

“The idea that construction workers can’t take mandatory water breaks? Why are we here?

Texas water breaches are already risky. “We’ve heard from workers that taking rest breaks is very stigmatized in the construction industry, because that signifies potential delays to get projects completed,” said Christine Bolaños of Workers Defense Project, a Texas-based community organization for immigrant construction workers.

Only Austin and Dallas require construction workers to take 10-minute breaks every four hours. Marroquin said mandated breaks vary per site, but Austin city limits tend to follow the rule. Those outside the city borders are exempt.

“I know construction workers who have died at the site—they all hit me personally because that could be me,” Marroquin added.

Last Tuesday, Texas Democratic congressman Greg Casar held a nine-hour thirst strike on the US Capitol steps in Washington DC, when the temperature hit 90F, to protest Abbot’s move.

“The governor is trying to win the cruelty Olympics,” Casar said in an interview. “This bill could kill workers and shows that he’s putting profits over the people who entrusted him with this job.”

In 2010, his thirst strike helped pass Austin’s citywide construction worker water breaks.

“This fight is about water breaks, but most importantly it’s about dignity on the job and respecting the people who build our economy,” Casar added. “Workers need rest breaks, shade, water, and a living wage.”

Extreme heat harms people of color. Blacks and Hispanics make up 32% of the US population but 40% of outdoor workers.

Only six states—California, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington—protect outdoor workers from excessive heat. In 2021, the Biden Administration requested Osha to create heat safety regulations. These standards are unpublished.

Atoung Angis, another Texas worker, understands water breaks. As a wheelchair assistance at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, she is subjected to severe heat. Her time is mostly spent in a jet bridge without air conditioning.

“It’s like an oven,” said 20-year veteran Angis. “And you don’t get time to sit down and cool off or drink water.” She thinks water breaks are often impractical because she is so far from the break location. Security checks prevent her from carrying a water bottle on overseas flights. “Three to four hours without water,” Angis stated.

Houston and San Antonio are suing Texas over the new law, claiming state overreach and limiting city authority.

A recent tragedy has raised awareness. The mother of Gabriel Infante, a 24-year-old construction worker who died from severe heatstroke in San Antonio on June 23, 2022, sued B Comm Constructors this month. She told the Washington Post that the company lacked first aid, shaded rest facilities, and heat-related work schedule changes, putting workers at “extreme risk.”

“All of these deaths are preventable,” said University of Washington environmental and occupational health professor Kristie Ebi. Infante died at 109.8F. Heatstroke occurs at 103F or greater.

If someone had been paying attention and taken the right measures on the building site, he would have had drink, shade, and a break. “His core body temperature wouldn’t have gotten so high and he wouldn’t have died,” Ebi said.

Summary of today’s construction news

To put it simply, the method by which legislators choose their budgetary allocations has already come under fire. Last year, then-Rep. Marty Wilde, a Democrat from Eugene, expressed dissatisfaction with the budget, calling it “a document entirely developed outside of the public view.”

On the other hand, due to the new law, Houston and San Antonio have filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas, claiming that it will restrict their local autonomy and is an example of state overreach.