State contract authority changes advance

A bill that would change state purchasing processes advanced from general file Feb. 24.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist01' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Julie Slama'>Sen. Julie Slama</a>
Sen. Julie Slama

LB790, sponsored by Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, would allow the state Department of Administrative Services to join competitively bid group contracts entered into with political subdivisions of other states rather than seeking new bids for an independent contract.

The bill would authorize the state purchasing bureau to negotiate the terms of such contracts.

Slama said the change would save the state money and provide the flexibility necessary to respond to emergencies. She said that during last year’s flooding, mobile hand-washing stations were deployed to towns with compromised water supplies through a contract between Nebraska political subdivisions and a political subdivision out of state.

“[The state] couldn’t enter into that contract because the political subdivision was in another state,” Slama said.

During previous debate, Sen. Mark Kolterman of Seward opposed the bill, saying it would give DAS authority to evade competitive bidding laws. Since then, DAS representatives eased his concerns, Kolterman said, enabling him to support LB790.

Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha said he opposed the bill because it could allow the state to ignore competitive-bidding processes and possibly cause contracts to be awarded to out-of-state businesses.

“This bill is not Nebraska-business friendly,” Wayne said.

Slama introduced an amendment that would add LB890, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, to her bill. The provisions would allow political subdivisions to use a design-build contract method—in which design and construction contracts are bid simultaneously rather than sequentially—for water infrastructure projects.

The amendment was adopted 31-1 and LB790 advanced to select file on a vote of 32-1.

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