House lawmakers backed a measure Monday that would ban officials from requiring that a bidder on a public contract use union labor despite fears from critics that it could complicate efforts to build a new $1 billion stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
The measure, House Bill 362, would restrict state or local governments from discriminating against contractors who aren’t aligned with a labor union. House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, the bill’s sponsor, said it was aimed at “leveling the playing field” by not giving one contractor an unfair advantage over another.
But Democrats bristled at the measure, which passed by a 110-59 vote largely on party lines. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said the city of Atlanta should be allowed to make union labor a condition if it’s pumping hundreds of millions of public dollars into the stadium.
“Give Atlanta, give Georgia, the opportunity to really have the right to work,” she said.
The Falcons have been locked in negotiations with state and city officials for months over a new stadium that would replace the Georgia Dome, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed hopes to have a deal in place by the end of the month.
The latest version of the proposal calls for the Falcons and the NFL to put up more than $800 million in upfront costs for the retractable-roof stadium, while the city would issue $200 million in bonds backed by hotel-motel revenue to fund the venture.