On June 14, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida) signed HB 599 into law, which encourages open competition on contracts for construction services provided to local governments and funded by Florida taxpayers. The law prohibits local governments from imposing certain restrictive and discriminatory pre-bid mandates on local construction projects when a project is receiving 50 percent or more of its funding from the state. In the past, these mandates have disproportionately affected quality merit shop contractors, many of them small businesses, and kept them from bidding on projects funded by their own tax dollars through things like unrealistic hiring restrictions and arbitrary training requirements. They also negatively impact project costs due to diminished competition. This legislation helps deliver the best product for the best price to Florida taxpayers.
The bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Jayer Williamson, and Sen. Keith Perry carried the bill in the Senate. Rep. Williamson owns Williamson Electrical Co., a Milton electrical contractor, and Sen. Perry owns Gainesville-based Perry Roofing Contractors. They know firsthand the affects that unnecessary government mandates can have on the cost and quality of public construction projects.
While this legislation differs slightly from other state contracting neutrality efforts in that it directly impacts local government projects and takes on pre-bid mandates, as opposed to some states that have taken action against government-mandated project labor agreements on state and local projects, it tackles the one of the most serious issues facing Florida’s construction industry related to neutrality and ensures that the almost 97 percent of Florida construction workers that are merit shop have an opportunity to bid and work on public projects.
Find ABC National’s press release below, and review the official bill text and summary here.
ABC Hails Florida Legislation That Encourages Competition in Bidding on Public Construction Projects
WASHINGTON, June 15–-Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today applauded Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) for signing legislation into law that will promote open competition in the procurement of construction services funded by Florida taxpayers.
The bill, HB 599, ensures that when 50 percent or more of a project’s funding comes from state dollars, a locality cannot impose discriminatory mandates on public construction projects that tip the scales in favor of special interests. This will keep the bidding process competitive and allow all of Florida’s private construction workforce to work on projects funded by their own tax dollars. Prior to this legislation, local governments could impose unfair pre-bid hiring restrictions, training requirements, and benefit mandates that increased project costs and kept many merit shop contractors, who make up 96.9 percent of Florida’s construction workforce, on the sidelines.
“By restricting the use of anti-competitive and costly government mandates, Gov. Scott and the state legislature have created the conditions for all of Florida’s qualified business and workers to compete on a level playing field to build publicly funded construction projects,” said ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck. “Contractors can now be certain that they will not be shut out of the process before being given a fair opportunity to present their bids.”
It has been repeatedly shown that when the government encourages competition and allows all contractors to be part of the process, including those that are merit shop, costs go down, the quality of work goes up and taxpayers get the most return on their investment. When local governments tell bidding contractors how to run their businesses and put in place arbitrary barriers to entry to ensure only certain contractors have an opportunity to perform the work, it hurts local construction workers and small businesses, and projects are not built to their full potential.
By signing HB 599, Gov. Scott will ensure that 2,500 ABC members in Florida and all of Florida’s construction workforce will benefit from a fair and open bid process that gives the taxpayers the public works projects they deserve.
Florida becomes the 24th state to take action to ensure fair and open competition in government procurement of construction services and protect merit shop contractors’ ability to bid and build. Earlier this year, Wisconsin passed similar legislation addressing government neutrality in construction contracting, Missouri strengthened an existing law, and Iowa codified through statute a standing executive order signed by former Gov. Terry Branstad in 2011.