House Bill 1041, which, in the views of the Arkansas Press Association, would have eroded, or at least provided the opportunity to, tranparency by municipal governments, apparently will not get out of a Senate committee.
The APA came out against the bill, which allows municipalities with populations of more than 2,500 to spend up to $50,000 without a competitive bidding process, early in the session.
The bill, which had received a do pass recommendation by a House committee and passed the House with 55 votes on Jan. 28, had appeared on several agendas of the Senate’s County, City & Local Affairs Committee before finally coming before the committee last week.
Although the bill got a nomination, it died for lack of a second and is, likely, finished.
After passing the House, the bill was forwarded to the Senate’s committee that is chaired by local Senator Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch.
Rep. Jon Eubanks, R-Paris, said the bill came out of the House committee sporting unanimous support.
Stubblefield said in January he couldn’t support the bill as it is and, because his committee has three Democrats, didn’t expect it to have as easy of a route as it had in the House.
The APA identified what it termed myths the bill will reportedly alleviate including that competitive bidding is cumbersome especially when purchasing police cars because there is already a provision that allows for the purchase of vehicles without bidding.
The City of Booneville has purchased its entire police department fleet without a bid process because it was eligible to make the purchases through a state approved contract with two Little Rock dealerships.
The APA also disputed the existing threshold of $20,000 was too low because that limit was established about a decade ago, meaning the $50,000 is an increase of 1.5 times the existing mount.
An idea that cities operate more efficiently without the bidding process was countered with a statement of “the lack of bidding for purchases subjects a city to a haphazard procurement process and more scrutiny. Laying groundwork for purchases is always better than fallout from poor choice,” by the APA.
Another purported savings on printing of legal notices was countered by the APA’s belief that, “without bidding, cities shut the door to local business/contractors who may provide the product/service for less. The cost of notice is offset by savings through competitive marketplace.”
Finally, the APA completely disputes the bill promotes transparency, insisting “few newspaper/broadcast outlets publish information about city council agendas or (the) procurement process. The best way to ensure transparency/fairness to all centuries-old tradition of public notices.”