June 2007

Apples to apples?

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Local preference laws can determine the awarding of public contracts

by David M. Gersh
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Billions of dollars are spent every year by state and local governments to build and repair schools, libraries, prisons, government buildings and other public projects. Virtually every roofing contractor knows a public contract is supposed to be awarded to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder; however, less widely known are the ways many states undercut this standard by attempting to favor certain bidders.

Although some of this favoritism is achieved through unofficial policy, the more prejudicial policies—those that conflict to the greatest extent with the "lowest responsive and responsible bidder" standard—have been enacted into law. Throughout the years, many states and local jurisdictions have passed or attempted to pass laws favoring residents in the award of public contracts.

By understanding how the states in which you conduct business favor certain contractors, you can take advantage of the preferences offered, make informed decisions about which projects you should pursue, and more accurately assess your chances of successfully pursuing or defending a bid protest.

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