Could Economic Relief for the Florida Construction Industry Be On the Way?
While the Florida construction industry continues to limp along, relief may be on the way in the Florida Legislature. The gambling bills, promising significant casino construction in South Florida if passed, are garnering all the media attention, but potentially more significant legislation has thus far flown beneath the radar screen. House bill 337 and its companion Senate bill 576 seek to turn public procurement laws on their heads, paving the way for private developers and contractors to solicit public/private partnership jobs without the need for competitive bidding.
Under this legislation, private entities may approach a public entity at any level of government with ideas for public/private partnership construction. The public entities would already have policies in place for receiving ideas from the private sector, addressing issues such as opportunities for competition through public notice (but not traditional bidding or procurement procedures), criteria for choosing among competing proposals, accelerated selection and review timelines, financial analyses of the proposals, etc. The legislation specifically provides the public entity shall not be required to select the proposal with the lowest bid offer, but rather may consider price as only one factor in evaluating the proposals received.
Public entities may request proposals or invite bids from private entities for the development or operation of projects rather than waiting on private entities to propose them. Payment to the private entity can come from any combination of public funds, grants, user fees, lease payments, etc.
If passed, the act will take effect July 1, 2012. Could this open the door to a flurry of new construction, fueled by creative public/private partnerships in which part of the revenue would be generated by user fees and lease payments if the private entity operates the facility it developed? It certianly presents fascinating and promising opportunities and potential. Watch this blog for updates as the bills move through the Legislature.