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Legislative Black Caucus seeks to lock in Kemp’s recent efforts to increase diversity in state contracts
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) announced its 2023 priorities this week, and equity issues predominate its agenda, including access to credit, affordable housing, medicine and support for Black farmers and Black-owned businesses.
One bill, introduced this week by veteran lawmaker Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, focuses on promoting more racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the awarding of state contracts. Bruce led the GLBC in pushing for similar legislation in prior years, without success. The difference this year, he hopes, is that Gov. Brian Kemp is already supporting some of the bill’s key provisions.
The Georgia Equitable Contracting Opportunity Act (HB 289) calls for the creation of a new Division of Supplier Diversity within the Department of Administrative Services (DOAS), which handles procurement and contracting for goods and services across the state. It creates a director position to lead the division as well as a “minority and women-owned business enterprises state-wide advocate” to help oversee the development and enforcement of new, more equitable policies and procedures for procurement contracts.
“We want to make sure we’re not in a situation where all the contracts in state government are going to the same people,” said Bruce. “Right now we have a big disparity between the number of African-Americans in Georgia and the share of contracts that they’re getting.”
Why It Matters
Blacks make up 32% of Georgia’s population and own about 5% of private businesses in the state, according to the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC), which certifies minority enterprises to do business with private and public sectors. Those Black-owned businesses earn 2.1% of annual revenues earned by all businesses in the state, while all minority-owned firms earn 12.2% of business revenues, says GMSDC.
When it comes to the $4.5 billion in state contracts annually awarded by DOAS and other state agencies, the share of Black and other minority-owned businesses is not clear, because DOAS and other agencies have not been uniformly tracking it. DOAS has, as mandated by federal law, tracked $1.6 billion in federally-funded state transportation contracts awarded to Georgia contractors, and reported that minority-owned businesses were awarded $89 million, or 5.5% of those contracts in 2022.
HB 289 calls for the state to conduct a study “to determine whether there is a disparity between the number of qualified minority and women-owned enterprises ready, willing and able to perform state contracts for commodities, services and construction and the number of such contractors actually engaged to perform such contracts to determine what changes, if any, should be made to state policies.”
“We want to make sure that we are spreading those contracts out,” said Bruce. “And if we find out, as I know we will, that contracts are not being awarded on an equitable basis, then the idea is to come up with policies and practices to make sure that it’s balanced and equalized.”
At the press conference introducing the GLBC agenda this week, caucus chair Carl Gilliard, D-Savannah, said, “If we’re the number one place to do business in the nation, then we should do business with all of our people.”
Bruce said his bill is intended to codify and ultimately fund the supplier diversity initiative that Kemp put in motion through an executive order last July.
Kemp’s order created a management position for small business and supplier diversity within the state purchasing division of DOAS. Julian Bailey, a state procurement supervisor with a decade of experience in working with minority businesses, was selected to take on the new role.
Bailey led a Kemp-mandated effort by DOAS last summer and fall to reach out to small minority-owned, woman-owned and veteran-owned businesses across the state to find out what their experiences are with bidding for state contracts, and what could make the process easier. Their 85-page report issued in October found that many small business owners face obstacles in satisfying state bid requirements, including understanding the bidding process, finding out about bids and potential business partners, and in securing access to sufficient capital and credit needed to win contracts.
The report made recommendations that included expanding the minority business enterprise certification program; piloting an informal, less complicated bidding process for contracts under $100,000; and appointing small business liaisons at every state agency, college and university that deals with state contracts to help business owners navigate the bidding and contracting process.
It also recommended lessening the level of prior contracting experience, capitalization and insurance required for some state contracts, which has knocked many small businesses out of contention.
“A big part of what our businesses need is better access to information about how it all works,” said Bruce. “I imagine we spend millions of dollars just on toilet paper at the state level, for all the state offices, state buildings and military bases. For something as simple as toilet paper, how do you bid on a contract to provide it?”
“I thank the governor for supporting this effort through executive order before we dropped the bill again this year,” said Bruce. “We agree with him that all this needs to be done, and we want to make sure that it happens. The next governor could come in and just ignore it.”
HB 289 has been read on the House floor twice and awaits action by the Governmental Affairs Committee, which didn’t move on a similar bill last year.
“I don’t know that we need to create a new level of bureaucracy and expense around an issue that policy could address,” said Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, a veteran lawmaker who sits on the committee.
Powell said he agrees with many of the recommendations by DOAS to simplify the bidding process and to make state contracts more accessible to small businesses, “whether that’s minority-owned, woman-owned, or anyone qualified to do the job.
“I understand what Governor Kemp has done, and I don’t have an issue with it,” Powell said. “But I can assure you from experience that when you create a whole new division within an agency, all that does is create jobs and more expense. We need to be conservative with taxpayer money and tackle some of these issues through policy changes, and then make sure the legislature maintains good oversight on those policies.”
Update, July 17, 2023: HB 128, sponsored by Rep. Soo Hong, R-Lawrenceville, and aimed at making the process easier for minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses to qualify for state contracts, was signed by Gov. Kemp on April 24. It will become effective January 1, 2024.
Header image: Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, speaks at a press conference in Atlanta on Feb. 17, 2023, by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) at which they announced their 2023 priorities. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)
A study committee of Georgia senators took a decisive step Tuesday toward ending a longstanding and contentious law that regulates how and where new medical facilities are located in the state.
The committee’s decision centers on the 44-year-old Certificate of Need law. It was created to control health care costs and cut down on duplication of services and unnecessary expansions. It determines when, where and if hospitals need to be built. Opponents have said the law prevents competition and enables big hospitals to have a monopoly, often shutting out small and private medical outlets.
On Tuesday, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform effectively said the law needs to be repealed. The committee approved, in a 6-2 vote, nine recommendations.
“Based upon the testimony, research presented, and information received, the Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform has found that the problem Georgia’s CON law was intended to combat no longer exists,” the report said.
However, the head of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals said Tuesday that repealing the law would be a bad idea.
“It would have a devastating financial impact on hospitals and the quality and access to health care,” Monty Veazey, the alliance’s chief executive, told State Affairs.
Veazey said he has not seen the recommendations yet but his organization has sent its own set of recommendations to the senate and house study committees.
“We believe that the certificate of need really does need some modernization and we look forward to working with the committee to work through those recommendations and see if we can reach a compromise position during the upcoming legislative session,” Veazey said. “We still want to see what the House committee recommends before moving forward.”
Here’s what the senate study committee recommends, according to a draft:
- Repeal CON requirements for obstetrics services, neonatal intensive care, birth centers and all services related to maternal and neonatal care across Georgia.
- End requirements for hospital-based CON on Jan. 1, 2025.
- Reform CON laws to eliminate CON review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds that serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
- Repeal all cost expenditure triggers for CON.
- All medical and surgery specialties should be considered a single specialty, including cardiology and general surgery.
- Multi-specialty centers should be allowed, particularly in rural areas.
- Remove CON for hospital bed expansion.
- Revise freestanding emergency department requirements such that they must be within 35 miles of an affiliated hospital.
- Remove CON for research centers.
The committee will present its recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.
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ATLANTA — The first step in the 2023 electoral redistricting process occurred Monday when Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, released a draft proposal of new Senate district maps.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia to redraw its state House, Senate and congressional district maps, adopted in 2021 by a majority-Republican-led Legislature, after finding they violated the Votings Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters. The Georgia General Assembly is charged with submitting new maps to comply with Jones’ order by Dec. 8, and will be meeting in an eight-day special legislative session to do so, starting on Wednesday.
The proposed Senate maps would create two Black-majority voting districts while eliminating two white majority districts in metro Atlanta now represented by Democrats. The districts of state Sen. Elena Parent, chair of the Senate Democratic caucus, and Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves, a freshman, would become majority-Black if the redrawn maps make it through the redistricting process, a change that could invite considerably more primary challenges.
The proposed maps do not significantly alter the district lines for Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, and Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, whose districts Jones ruled did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. It will be up to Jones to decide if the new maps pass muster.
As it stands, the proposed Senate map will leave Republicans with a 33-23 advantage in the Senate.
On Wednesday legislators will plunge into their redistricting work during a special session at the Capitol. In addition to the state Senate maps, lawmakers must also redraw electoral maps to create Black majorities in one additional congressional district in west-metro Atlanta, and in five additional state House districts in Atlanta and the Macon-Bibb County area.
The proposed Senate maps (and all proposed maps to be submitted by legislators) are available on the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office’s website. Written comments can be submitted (and viewed) by the public through the portal available on the Georgia General Assembly website. Most of the reapportionment and redistricting committee’s hearings are open to the public; the daily legislative schedule is available here.
“The committee encourages public participation and values the input of the community in this vital democratic process,” Echols said in a statement released on Monday.
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