Competitive Bidding: Helping California Businesses Thrive

Here in Sacramento, one of the many (many, many) things we learned during the pandemic is that when the state has to procure goods and services during a declared state of emergency, it currently has no efficient, transparent means of identifying bids from California-based companies.  During a State of Emergency, the Department of General Services awards contracts to a company who can fulfill the terms of the contract quickly or with whom they have a relationship, with no provision or consideration made to identify whether those businesses are headquartered or primarily manufacture their goods and services in California.

I have introduced a bill to rectify this oversight.  Senate Bill 1321 would create a designation within the state’s emergency bid procurement process that would allow companies headquartered or that manufacture in California to self-identify as a California-based company.

SB 1321 would not preclude any business from bidding, nor would it cause the state to sacrifice quality or efficiency.  It doesn’t state that the public’s money must be spent on California companies regardless of quality or cost, only that the state should allow California-based companies to identify as such and include that criteria as part of the bid process.  It would allow for Californian companies to showcase their status as an employer of the state’s blue collar workers and a proponent of local industry.

Spending the state’s tax dollars in California, with California-based businesses, on products made in California, and in support of California jobs.  Reasonable, right?  Even during an emergency – in fact, especially during an emergency – we should be doing so, but that’s simply not the case now, with the reason given being efficiency.

As it stands, during a state of emergency, the executive branch – the governor and his administration – wields the power to award public contracts for a variety of goods and services without the normal competitive bidding process.  Many California-based manufacturing companies lose these bids to large national or international companies that can afford to produce goods to-scale at below-market rates, often because they can pay their workers less and have less-stringent environmental regulations than California does.

For example, the state’s 2021 budget allocated $920.6 million for facemasks alone.  If we had allocated this money to a number of California-based PPE manufacturers, we would have injected nearly a billion dollars into our own economy.  In turn, this would have created a ripple effect, stimulating businesses, job opportunities, and supporting blue-collar workers in the state.  Such a push for local industry also would encourage further technological innovation.

Given that California has a vast number of manufacturers spanning many different industries, this bill would provide the state not only an opportunity to create a more business-friendly environment, but also an excellent opportunity to keep businesses, jobs, and dollars in the Golden State.

Having this home-state designation as part of the emergency procurement process isn’t a massive retooling of the way this state does business.  It simply seeks to put California businesses and contractors in plain sight in order to give them the best opportunity to fill vital contracts during a state of emergency, keeping millions of dollars here, providing good jobs and generating economic activity when California needs it most.

By passing SB 1321, we send the signal that California is making an effort to keep businesses, jobs and dollars in California.  It’s a step toward pushing this state’s government into a more business-friendly future.