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Minutes for SB148 - Committee on Education

Short Title

Amending requirements for school district board requests for proposals for construction or repair projects.

Minutes Content for Tue, Feb 19, 2019

Chairperson Baumgardner opened the hearing on SB148

Nick Myers, staff revisor, provided an overview of for the committee.  This bill amends requirements for school district board requests for proposals on construction or repair projects. (Attachment 1)

Senator Pyle asked what requirements there are currently in place and who originally requested the bill.  Mr. Myers responded that school districts must get approval from the Board of Education for expenditures above $20,000 with a few exceptions.  Mr. Myers noted SB148 would keep those in place and add limitations on the bidding process that schools take in regard to the specification of proprietary products and installation methods.  Robert J. VanCrum, Delta Innovative Services, originally proposed these changes.

Senator Taylor asked for clarification on products that need to be pre-approved as an alternative product. Mr. Myers responded that if they are specifying a product there may be industry recognized similar products.

Mr. Myers responded further to Senator Pyle’s questions on the bidding process. He stated that the $20,000 expenditure limitation requires school districts to submit bids in sealed proposals and bid out to the lowest responsible bidder, so that expenditure limitation requires a bidding process.

Senator Taylor asked if a school district can set their own expenditure level limit for less than $20,000. Mr. Myers responded that this bill only refers to bids above the 20-thousand-dollar threshold.

Robert J. VanCrum appeared as a proponent. He stated this bill addresses school districts specifying one or two proprietary products for a project potentially creating the consequence of excluding potential bidders.  (Attachment 2)

Chairperson Baumgardner commented that it is not typically the boards of education that come up with the RFP, but usually comes from administration recommendations. She also noted that it is not usually the superintendent that decides what type of materials, it is usually an architect or engineer. Chairperson Baumgardner asked if the issue is regarding an architectural or engineering choice, which occurs before the administration and boards take action based off the recommendations. Mr. VanCrum responded that is correct, but he does not feel this addresses the problem. He believes it is harmful to exclude bids for roofing installers by specifying a product that they can not install.

Senator Braun asked how many other states or areas in Kansas have enacted something similar. Stewart Stein, who represents Delta Innovative Services, was asked to answer this question. Mr. Stein responded that most every state has a law that requires a competitive bidding process with

projects over $20,000. He stated that the trend however has been to not set criteria. Mr. Stein discussed an example from 2015 where a district limited their specified product. Senator Braun asked how many states have passed a similar law or legislation, or other entities within Kansas. Mr. Stein responded that six states in the last ten years have specifically stated that you cannot list a proprietary product in searching for bids, and twenty states have a modified version. Mr. Stein does not know of any in Kansas.

Senator Givens discussed the broad sweep of this bill and discussed how he can see this bill working better if it was more narrowly focused on roofing only.

Rob Gilligan presented opposition testimony due to the broad scope of the bill. (Attachment 3)

Mr. Gilligan noted the majority of projects in Kansas are remodels, improvements and repairs, as opposed to new buildings. This creates a need to match products and materials accordingly, which this bill could impact. Mr. Gilligan voiced concerns such as limiting the bill to roofing which would require three bidders per project and some areas in Kansas may not be able to come up with a total of three.

Senator Braun asked Mr. Gilligan if he believes there is a problem in the bidding process. Mr. Gilligan responded he does not see a problem. Discussion ensued over the possibility of potential problems in the bidding process.

Senator Rucker discussed engineers and architects recommending specific products and the process of the lowest bids being awarded contracts. Mr. Gilligan responded that the law allows for the lowest responsible bid and noted that his concern isn't necessarily the proprietary products. He stated that local elected officials are doing their best to represent their districts and are making the best decision they can with deciding what their facilities need based on experts and consultant’s advice. He stated that it is his belief that their members are following the law as required in regard to the lowest and most responsible bid.

Vice-Chairperson Alley discussed that people are creatures of habit, and if they have had a good experience with a product, they may go to that product again or look at other similar products. Vice-Chairperson Alley believes architects should not write out or specify only one product, and it should be opened up for bidding projects.

Chairperson Baumgardner asked about the 90 bond projects, and what percentage has where the state is paying for those. Mr. Gilligan was unsure. Chairperson Baumgardner requested this information and believes this will help show why the state is interested in this bill. She also asked what type of training KASB requires for school board members. Mr. Gilligan responded that they have new board member training, board leadership training and they use consultants that help board members. Chairperson Baumgardner asked if board members have any RFB training to understand the difference in products. The Chair gave an equivalent example of understanding generic and non-generic prescription medications. Mr. Gilligan responded stated he would have to investigate further. 

There being no further questions or conferees, the Chair closed the hearing on SB148.