Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 24, 2013

Buy American bill awaits Gov. O’Malley’s signature

Measure receives support in both Senate and House

CUMBERLAND — A bill that would require many contractors and subcontractors on government projects to use American-created goods is awaiting Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly by votes of 46-0 in the Senate and 132-2 in the House of Delegates.

The bill obliges governments to require the American-made purchases on contracts to build or maintain a public work or buy or manufacture machinery or equipment to be installed at a public work site.

A public safety exception is included in the bill that exempts emergency life safety and property safety items. Those items could include fire alarms and security systems.

The bill also allows a public body to make findings of fact to exempt some projects because of the comparative cost of American-produced items. A public body is defined as the state, a county, a city and school districts, according to the bill.

The bill may increase costs, but the exact amount is difficult to predict, according to a fiscal and policy note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services.

“State costs for public works projects may increase in proportion to the use of manufactured goods in state public works contracts; a reliable estimate is not feasible, in part because the bill includes several exceptions. ... Although total state expenditures for public works projects likely do not increase ... fewer projects may receive funding due to the increase in costs for individual projects,” the fiscal and policy note said.

The bill may also require additional state employees.

“At a minimum, enforcement requires procurement staff to identify, prior to issuing a bid request, all of the manufactured goods included in a public works contract that are subject to the bill’s requirement, and verify their origin during the performance of a contract,” according to the fiscal and policy note.

The document estimated about $150,000 required to fund three administrative positions, with most of that money going to salaries and benefits.

The bill should not affect small businesses much, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

“Any increased costs for American-made manufactured goods used in public works contracts are likely passed on to the public body. Small businesses may benefit, however, to the extent their products are used in public works projects,” the policy note said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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