California Legislative Committee to Again Consider Putting Legislature Under Same Fair Contracting Laws as Other State Agencies

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UPDATE: The committee analysis for Assembly Bill 1947 has been issued, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute (a project of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC) is the sole party in the universe that bothered (or dared?) to submit a comment. I’ll be at the committee meeting tomorrow to testify as a witness. Perhaps there will even be some committee members there besides the chairperson to hear it.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) has introduced a package of three bills (Assembly Bill 1946, Assembly Bill 1947, and Assembly Bill 1948) that would eliminate some of the special privileges of the California State Legislature. I call these bills the “Glass Houses” package because they reveal how the state legislature hypocritically enacts laws to control the activities of businesses and government entities, but makes sure to exempt itself from those same laws.

On Tuesday, April 17, the Assembly Business, Professions & Consumer Protection Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. in Room 447 of the Capitol and at that hearing will consider Assembly Bill 1947. This bill changes state law to require the California State Legislature to bid its contracts under fair and open competitive bidding, for the purpose of stimulating competition in a manner conducive to sound fiscal practices and for eliminating favoritism, fraud, and corruption. AB 1947 also creates transparency in the development and execution of bid specifications, so that the legislature is accountable to the people for its policy decisions concerning contracts funded by the people. A preliminary fact sheet explaining this bill, the need for this bill, and the inspiration for this bill is here:

Assembly Bill 1947 – Preliminary Fact Sheet

My letter in support of Assembly Bill 1947 is here:

Dayton Letter in Support of Assembly Bill 1947

Posted NEW on April 16: Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee Analysis of Assembly Bill 1947

To express your support for Assembly Bill 1947, go to Shannon Grove’s My Legislation, select “AB 1947 – Competitive Bidding for Legislative Contracts” – and then select Support/Oppose AB 1947.

What Are the Chances of Assembly Bill 1947 Becoming Law?

Based on past history, the Democrat leadership will NOT let this bill pass out of committee.

In a shameful vote on April 23, 2007, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee rejected Assembly Bill 1070, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Paul Cook (R-Yucaipa) that would have subjected the state legislature to the same competitive bidding requirements as state agencies and local governments in California. One Democrat, Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto), joined committee Republicans to vote in support of the bill, reportedly because she recognized the historic legacy of racial discrimination in awarding government contracts.

A freshman legislator at the time, Assemblyman Cook learned through frustrating experience about how Democrat legislative leaders control their fiefdom. The Legislative Counsel’s office, which drafts bills, included an unnecessary provision in the bill that Cook could not manage to get removed despite his efforts. The Democrat committee analyst used the provision as the basis for an argument against the bill. Even though Assemblyman Cook received no letters of opposition, and not a single speaker at the committee hearing testified against the bill, the bill was rejected without comments.

Following the vote, the May 11, 2007 Orange County Register published a column by the newspaper’s “Capitol Watchdog” Brian Joseph entitled “Committee Quashes Contract Rules: Bill Would Have Required Legislature to Follow Fair Play Rules in Awarding its Projects.” The column reported on the committee rejection of Assembly Bill 1070. It also reported that in 2005 an unknown person or persons in the legislature unilaterally decided to insert a provision in bid specifications for the Capitol Safety and Security Improvements Project to require all contractors to use an “all-union workforce.” Such a requirement would not be allowed under the state’s competitive bidding laws, but the state legislature has exempted itself from those laws.

The column also referred to a court case – The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature – in which the legislature was accused of illegally using that union-only bidding requirement and also accused of illegally withholding documents from the public that would reveal which legislator initiated this behind-the-scenes bidding scheme. That lawsuit lost in Sacramento County Superior Court in 2006 and lost on appeal in the California Third District Court of Appeals in 2008. The California Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. The courts ruled that the legislature could indeed and was indeed exempt from the State Contracts Act when bidding construction contracts.

In 2009, Assemblyman Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills) introduced Assembly Bill 641, which would have required the legislature to abide by competitive bidding laws. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sponsored the bill in response to the two court decisions in The Zumbrun Law Firm v. California Legislature. The Assembly Business and Professions Committee defeated Assembly Bill 641 on a party-line vote (Republicans in support; Democrats opposed).

Will the third time be the charm for competitive bidding? The California State Legislature may want to heed the advice of Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack:

Don’t throw Stones at your Neighbours’, if your own Windows are Glass.

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