March 10, 2013

Public-Private Partnership Bill passes after hot debate over relaxed procurement rules

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By Becca Heller

becca@marylandreporter.com

The House of Delegates hotly debated the Public-Private Partnership Bill before passing it 119-19 on Friday.

The administration bill, HB560, establishes guidelines for how the state can partner with private businesses to deliver infrastructure projects without following the usual procurement process. The legislation also sets up the process that the Board of  Public Works will be required to follow in relation to public-private partnership (P3) proposals.

Discussion of the bill centered around concern that the bill did not include sufficient measures to prevent favoritism.

“We made great strides — both Republicans and Democrats in this house who were truly united on the issue — to develop fairness and integrity in the procurement process,” said Del. Luiz Simmons, who was referring to a term he served in 1979. “What’s wrong with the P3 bill is that it eliminates all of these protections.”

While P3’s are not defined as procurements, they still involve the distribution of millions of taxpayer dollars.

“It’s like we call it something else so the law doesn’t apply to it,” said Simmons. “Bad, bad bill.”

“Good, good, fair bill,” retorted Del. Maggie McIntosh, chairwoman of the Environmental Matters Committee, one of the committees that considered the bill. “This bill simply sets up the structure to clarify the steps for each of our constituents.”