SJR 474

Joint Subcommittee Studying State Government Procurement Practices and Procedures

December 8, 1999, Richmond

The meeting commenced with the joint subcommittee receiving information from a series of speakers concerning whether a statewide disparity study should be conducted. One speaker, a professor from the University of Maryland, asserted that the unavailability of necessary data, particularly concerning data on which firms have bid on prime contracts and which firms have received subcontracts, and the lack of consensus among the consultant community regarding how availability should be measured as two major problems associated with disparity studies. The professor also suggested using existing staff and state college faculty to perform portions of the disparity study.

The subcommittee heard from representatives of the Richmond Area Municipal Contractors Association, Associated General Contractors, and the Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association. These representatives generally expressed the need for the state to continue ensuring that all Virginians have an opportunity to compete for state contracts on a level playing field but did not support having a disparity study conducted as a means of furthering this goal. It was suggested that the funds that would be used for conducting the disparity study be used to encourage strategic alliances between minority and majority contractors, provide educational programs to support and strengthen minority contractors, and promote career opportunities for present and future minority business owners. A representative from the Richmond Area Municipal contractors Association suggested the establishment of an ongoing ad-hoc committee representing all affected parties, which would meet regularly and discuss strategies related to the obstacles encountered by minority contractors that serve as barriers to full participation in the procurement process. There was also discussion concerning the problems that other jurisdictions have encountered in implementing programs based on the findings of disparity studies.

The joint subcommittee also heard comment from several others, including representatives of the Virginia Regional Minority Supplier Development Council (VRMSDC), the Metropolitan Business League, and MGT of America, Inc. These presentations supported the need to conduct the disparity study. The information provided by the study would provide the state with a clearer picture concerning minority participation in the procurement process, including the extent to which that participation is adversely affected by discrimination, as well as options for addressing any disparity that exists. A representative from VRMSDC suggested that conducting the study provides an opportunity for the General Assembly to send a much-needed message to the minority and majority business communities that the state is truly interested in making the playing field level.

At the conclusion of the presentations the joint subcommittee determined that the next meeting would be a work session to develop the final recommendation regarding funding for the disparity study. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 13, 2000, in Senate Room A of the General Assembly Building beginning at 10:00 a.m.

The Honorable Benjamin Lambert, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Amigo R. Wade