New California legislation affecting public works contractors was adopted pursuant to Assembly Bill 626, sponsored by the Union Trade Contractors Association of California and endorsed by various trade and contractor associations including the AGC. AB 626, which was intended to assist contractors in presenting claims against public agencies, affords new opportunities, and some potential pitfalls, to contractors and subcontractors submitting claims to public owners.
The legislation, codified at California Public Contract Code (PCC) section 9204, is effective for public works contracts entered into after January 1, 2017. All public entities (including the CSUS and the UC system), other than certain Departments of the State (CalTrans, High-Speed Rail Authority, Water Resources, Parks and Recreation, Corrections and Rehabilitation, General Services and the Military) are bound by the provisions of PCC Section 9204. PCC 9204 establishes a mandatory pre-litigation process for all claims by contractors on a public works project. It is an attempt to address the reluctance of public owners to promptly and fairly negotiate change orders on projects, putting some teeth to the mandate of existing law under PCC Section 7104, which precludes public owners from shifting to the contractor the risk of addressing differing subsurface and/or concealed hazardous site conditions.