Dems' lowest bidder small business bill fails
A lowest-bidder for small business bill failed by four votes at the April 27 House floor debate.
When introducing HB4774, all state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Aurora) said was her bill helped protect small business, leaving out the description of how exactly it would do that. But, according to the bill synopsis, if passed her legislation “provides that if more than one local company's bid is within 5% to 10% of the lowest bid made by a non-local company, the county board shall award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder among the local company bids.”
Beginning the debate, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) asked if Cook County is exempt from the bill. As assumed, the bill would immune the area, according to Kifowit, who said the county has a similar law so adding them would be duplicative.
“I know we do everything in the chamber to help Cook County,” Breen said. "It just seems a little strange, more than usual.
Breen wanted to know exactly where in the bill language did it not allow for Cook County to go into collar counties and shop for work. With no answer, Kifowit called the bill a preference program.
The preference is a mandate, countered Breen.
“Even if you are not the lowest bidder, we have to take you,” Breen said.
Lawmakers have “lowest possible bidder,” because they are responsible for taxpayers’ dollars, according to Breen, who said 10 percent is not a small amount on the contracts.
“This is something that is just another give away to certain parts of the state and not to others,” Breen said. “As always, exempt Cook County, when there is no reason to do so.”
Unlike Breen, Rep. Steve Anderson (R-Geneva) showed his support for HB4774, saying as a representative for local communities for 25 years, the law is a requirement businesses have begged for.
“This is not a mandate,” Anderson said. "This is an option."
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), however, insisted that it was not an option.
“This is a shell,” Ives said. "Read page two of her bill."
The bill automatically gives the local bidder a 5 to 10 percent profit margin, she added.
“They don’t have to actually and responsibly bid to be the lowest bidder and try and win the contract based on price,” Ives said. “They can safely overbid 5 percent at a minimum and some of these contracts are enormous.”
The bill is unfair to taxpayers, according to Ives, who like Breen, said lawmakers have a responsibility to keep contracts as low as possible so taxpayers are not scammed.
Concluding the debate, Rep. Sheri Jesiel (R-Winthrop Harbor) questioned why construction companies were exempt from the bill.
“Exactly what the previous speaker said, we felt that construction projects being very specific in nature and very competitive were removed; so contrary to what was portrayed, this does not pertain to the very large construction processes, so the previous speaker was incorrect,” Kifowit said.
However, the sponsor’s argument was to no avail with HB4774 failing 46-42.