CARSON CITY – A proposal in the state Assembly would give minority-owned or women-owned businesses a five percent bidder preference for state public works projects under $100,000
Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, advanced the bill in a Assembly Government Affairs hearing today.
Her bill, with amendments, would allow businesses that qualify under federal standards as a “small, disadvantaged business enterprise” would get the bidder preference.
Like the preference currently available for disabled veterans who own businesses, a 5 percent bidder preference would artificially make a bid lower by 5 percent, thus making the bid more competitive.
Neal cited 2002 ownerships statistics from Nevada that show few minority or women business owners in the construction industry.
Minorities and women comprise large numbers of the population, but their numbers are not reflected in the number of business owners in Nevada.
“We at least want to provide the opportunity for groups that may be able to bond collaboratively together to start to become part of public works in a real way,” Neal said. “…There may be a need at this point to level the playing field so they may equally participate.”
Others, however, took issue with changing the bidding procedure to favor disadvantaged businesses, many of which are owned by women and minorities.
“I always thought you did a job based on the ability of the individual,” said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko. “Nobody should take a precedent over anybody else.”
Ellison said that this bill would put others at a disadvantage.
“Maybe it’s a little simplistic, but we’d just like to be in an environment where it is a meritocracy,” said Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley.
Neal, however, disagreed. She said that a meritocracy is theoretically ideal, but it is not what Nevada has now. She said her bill would level the playing field for small, disadvantaged businesses.
“There’s nothing in this bill that compromises the quality of the contractor here,” said Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno.
The committee did not vote on the bill today.
***UPDATE 3/26/11: A mention of the $100,000 cap for the bidder preference was left out of the original version and has been added.