New State Law Requires Public Bid Openings
During the several years, there has been some controversy concerning whether bid openings should be open to the public and what information bidders should have access to. In 2011, the Florida Legislature expanded the exemptions to the Public Records Law enlarging the time for bids to be exempt from inspection and copying from ten days to thirty days from the opening of the bids, or until the time of a notice of intended award, whichever is earlier. Concerns were raised as to access to information, and whether bid openings should be open to the public.
This year, the Florida Legislature enacted Section 255.0518, Florida Statutes which requires state and local agencies to open sealed bids for the construction or repairs on a public building or public work during an open meeting conducted in accordance with the Sunshine Law. The agency is further required to announce the name of each bidder and the price submitted in the bid. Notwithstanding the Public Records exemption, this information must also be made available upon request.
Accordingly, there is now a statewide standard relative to how public agencies are to handle bid openings in the construction context, and the information that must be made available at that time. Passage of this new law should alleviate some of the concerns that have been raised by bidders and public agencies alike as to whether and to what extent such bid openings should be conducted as public meetings.