DeSantis receives bill to standardize public works procurement, reducing local control

by | May 22, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis received House Bill 705, which aims to standardize the procurement process for public works projects across Florida, thereby reducing local governments’ ability to impose specific requirements on contractors, such as living wages and local hiring.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was sent legislation on Tuesday that would standardize the procurement process for public works projects across the state, potentially altering how local governments and contractors operate.

The bill, House Bill 705, proposes to redefine public works projects to include those funded by both state and local governments, thereby broadening the state’s authority over such projects. If authorized, the bill would streamline the procurement process across the state by imposing a uniform standard that precludes local governments from setting specific requirements for contractors.

Stipulations in the bill would effectively limit the capacity of local governments to set specific conditions for contractors, such as mandating the payment of living wages or the hiring of local labor, putting in place a standardized procurement process for public works projects.

Proponents of the bill, namely Republicans, argued during debate deliberations that the provisions would encourage more competitive bidding and reduce costs.

“These policies are designed to enrich the local unions on the backs of the taxpayers,” Rep. Jason Shoaf, who sponsored the bill, said on the House floor in February, referencing the current procurement processes. “These programs that they say are going to be cut are union programs that pour more money into the Union coffers. The jobs that get these artificial wages are union jobs. They’re not going to your small mom and pop businesses. We’re just trying to bring back the free market to the state of Florida.”

The bill was been met with opposition from some Democrat lawmakers who expressed concerns about its implications for depressed worker wages and local autonomy.

“This bill not only preempts local governments but it very well will result in workers being paid less for their labor,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani before a House floor vote in February. “And I know we love to talk about the free market a lot in this chamber. But I also want to be clear that the free market doesn’t always look out for the little guy. And a lot of cases is driven by profit.”

Rep. Robin Bartleman raised additional concerns in February about the bill’s impact on local government autonomy, arguing that the state should uphold the preservation of local governments’ rights to make decisions that best serve their communities. She additionally question the free market justification used to support the bill, suggesting that if contractors are unwilling to meet local wage and apprenticeship standards, they should not bid on projects.

“This is not about helping corporations,” she said.” Nobody forces anyone to bid on work. There is plenty of work all across Florida for these contractors to bid on. If my Broward County wants to have a living wage to protect their people so that they can afford to live there … then don’t bid. But to take away power from local communities is wrong.”


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