Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bidder Responsibility Controversy in Ohio

The Cincinnati City Council recently passed a "responsible bidder" ordinance that requires contractors on public works construction projects to have an apprenticeship program for workers that has graduated at least one apprentice in each of the last five years.  

Impact of ordinance:  Without meeting the apprenticeship and other requirements, a low bidder with a responsive bid would be determined not to be a responsible bidder, and would not be awarded the project.

City and County clash:  The new law has sparked a political conflict between the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  The County's Commissioners voted to suspend up to $3.2 billion of capital sewer upgrade projects for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Great Cincinnati - owned by the County but operated by the City - until the City Council repeals the new bidder responsibility law. 

Will it limit the bidding pool?  Critics of the new ordinance note that the law will limit the bidding pool and eliminate non-union contractors from bidding public works, since many of them will not be able to meet the apprenticeship standard - something that generally only union contractors could comply with.  

Should apprenticeship use be required?  Many public agencies throughout the country have requirements mandating use of apprentices on public works construction projects.  Proponents of such requirements, typically labor unions, argue that there is a need for trained and qualified construction workers in the future as an aging workforce retires.  Opponents of such laws, typically non-union contractors, view efforts to mandate use of apprentices as an attempt by union contractors to limit competition on public projects to only union contractors, since unions typically sponsor most approved apprenticeship training programs.

More information:
  • Click here for a May 22, 2013 article from the Business Courier on the new Cincinnatti law: "County, city quarrel over project bidding requirements," by Chris Wetterich
  • Click here for RCW 39.04.320, Washington state's law requiring use of apprentices on public works of $1 million or more of the state, all school districts, and all institutions of higher education.
Mike Purdy's Public Contracting Blog 
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy Associates, LLC 

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