Too "Stupid" To Purchase For The State?

Katy Grimes: Some of the state’s school districts haven’t exactly been the best purchasers of products or services, according to Assemblyman Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate.

De La Torre has authored AB 635 to address state’s bidding system for roofing projects on schools.

Why the need for legislation? Apparently some school districts have allowed certain roofing companies and manufacturers to dictate the specifications of the project so narrowly, only the roofing manufacturer bidding on the particular job could possibly qualify for the bid. In the private sector, it is commonly referred to as “feathering your own nest.”

De La Torre said that during an investigation by the Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review, evidence was uncovered of consistent overcharging as high as 90 percent on school roofing projects by roofing contractors and manufacturers – even with public contracting codes provisions in place in the state.

De La Torre’s legislation will require a minimum of three bids for roofing projects, as well as proof of performance standards in advance of the bidding period, as well as an independent review of the bid by a qualified engineer or architect.

Contractors were able to skirt the state’s lowest bid provision because they wrote the specifications for the bid, thereby squeezing out competition and leading to dramatically inflated roofing prices.

School district employees typically do not have roofing expertise, and are thereby easily scammed, according to testimony at the hearing. However, Committee Chairman Senator Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, said that he was not quite buying into the need for legislation. “If I’ve got people working at schools too stupid to figure this out, we’ve got a bigger problem,” said Wright.

De La Torre said he was open to tightening up language in the bill. “It’s bigger than just schools,” said De La Torre, and pointed out that his bill will also apply to city, county and state agencies.

However, testimony in opposition to the bill came from fellow Democrats including Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco. Yee asked, “Should we put more regulations on them?” Yee asked if the bill stay could in the possession of the committee until details are worked out, “so we don’t get unintended consequences.”

De La Torre argued that only one of the three provisions in AB 635 was being challenged. “It has to be amended in the appropriations committee anyway.”

The bill was passed out of the committee to the appropriations committee where it will be met with more scrutiny.

But what a sad state of affairs when we need additional legislation in order to get state employees to do what’s already required of them. It is difficult not to ask why the state is creating legislation directed at government workers. What agency governs the Public Contract Code, and why weren’t they at the hearing?

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