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Construction Law Authority / Posts tagged "government"

Inside The Nation’s Varying Contractor Licensing Rules — And How They Impact Business

This article originally appeared in Construction Dive Magazine, May, 2017, Reprinted with Permission. In an effort to safeguard their residents against fraud and the chaos that can result from unprofessional behavior or lack of experience and knowledge, most states have some kind licensing procedure in place for professions like lawyers, physicians and real estate agents. However, when it comes to construction contractors — who practice in an industry that is full of life and death scenarios — there is little state-to-state licensing uniformity. How do these regulations vary across the U.S., and is there any indication that a strict regulatory scheme results in a higher level of professionalism and quality among contractors? How licensing rules vary "We see both extremes where it's extremely difficult to get a license, and then on the opposite side where anyone with a hammer and pickup truck can be a contractor," said Chuck Taylor, director of operations for Chicago- area...

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...

Bid Protest Filing Deadlines Are Strict, Unless….

The general rule is that bid protests must be timely filed in order to be considered. Most government agencies in Florida have specific deadlines for which a bid protest must be filed. These deadlines are expressed in terms of days, or even hours, and may specify the exact method that the protest or notice of protest must be submitted to be considered timely filed. A Protest filed after the deadline is usually considered a waiver of the protestor’s rights.  There are, however, scenarios where a protest technically filed after the deadline may still be considered. This is exemplified in the recent case Pro Tech Monitoring, Inc. v. State Department of Corrections. There, a protesting bidder was supposed to hand-deliver its formal bid protest petition to the clerk by a certain date. The agency’s clerk, however, did not stamp the petition in until the next day, and the agency determined the protest was untimely. However, the protestor had tried...

THE LAW IS THE LAW, AND SOMETIMES IT ISN’T “FAIR”

Sometimes the law isn't as you would expect. In fact, sometimes the law can dictate a result that you think is unfair. Therefore, it is always best to have someone research what the law is, instead of assuming it says what you think would be fair. As an example, some might find the law regarding the recoverability of home office overhead damages counterintuitive....

Government Bid Protests – An Overview (Part III of III)

In many bid protests, the ultimate question is whether the bidding irregularity or irregularities at issue gave the winning bidder or proposer an unfair advantage over the other bidders or proposers.  But, not all irregularities matter.  If it’s a material irregularity, like the winning bidder changing its price after the bids have been submitted and evaluated, and contrary to the specifications, that may be considered material.  But if it’s a minor irregularity, public agencies typically reserve the right to waive those.

Guess who decides whether an irregularity is material or minor.  The agency.  Also, keep in mind that public agencies are generally afforded wide discretion in soliciting and accepting bids, and in interpreting their own rules and requirements.  In one Florida case, a bidder submitted a cashier’s check instead of a the bid bond required by the Invitation to Bid.  The agency, and later the court, determined that since the cashier’s check accomplished the same purpose as the bid bond, it was considered a minor irregularity.  In that case the fact that bidder at issue was also the lowest bidder, and acceptance of the bid saved the agency money on the project, may have motivated the agency’s decision.

Suppose you file your protest, and someone like the purchasing director, for example, denies the protest on the merits.  Can you go straight to the courthouse to file a lawsuit?  The answer is probably not.  Administrative remedies must be exhausted before you can seek relief from the courts.  This means that you have to go through the protest procedure, and see it through to the end.  You may be required to have a hearing before a hearing officer which is a trial-like procedure.  At the end, the hearing officer may make a recommended award based on the facts presented.  That recommended award goes back to the agency, who may make the final award.

Keep in mind that a hearing officer’s recommended award is just that, a recommendation.  The order is not automatically reviewable by a court.  There may be times where a protestor can have a non-final order reviewed, but likely only if there are immediate negative consequences and review of the administrative agency’s action will not be good enough. 

The ABCs of Bid Advertisements and Acronyms

Mark J. StemplerHave you ever responded to an ITB after being shortlisted in response to an RFQ?  If you are seeking a government contract and don’t know what any of this means, don’t worry, you are not alone.  Public agencies advertise their contracts and projects through a variety of methods and vehicles, which are usually referred to by acronyms.  While they seem confusing at first glance, once you become familiar with the terminology, you’ll be able to better respond to the advertised project.

An Invitation for Bid ("IFB"), or Invitation to Bid ("ITB"), is usually a set of specifications that have been decided on and defined by the advertising agency.  Price is usually the most important factor.  The bidder that’s has the lowest price usually wins the award.  However, the bidder also has to be responsive and responsible.  The bid is generally responsive if includes of the information sought in the ITB’s or IFB’s specifications.  A bid is considered responsible if it appears that the bidder has the ability to perform the contract.

Agencies usually use Request for Proposals ("RFP") when they do not know what all the specifications or scope of work will be.  Proposers may be required to submit a plan describing how they plan to perform the project.  Price is generally still a factor, but there may be other factors like experience, capability, and management ability.  Like an ITB or IFB, agencies will evaluate whether the proposals are responsive and responsible. 

Getting Started in Public Procurement

Contractors looking for work in these tough times should keep public projects in mind. If you are not familiar with the public procurement or "bidding" process, knowing the basics will help in getting started. Most public agencies have standard policies and procedures for advertising and awarding contracts. The first step is identifying the public agencies that need your services. From there, you will need to determine how the agency advertises its projects, and the terms and conditions for the particular project.

In Florida, there are layers of government, all of which advertise and award construction work. The tricky part is that these agencies all have their own requirements. For example, State agencies such as the Florida Department of Transportation, may be subject to the requirements of statutes and administrative regulations that may not be applicable to local government agencies. In other words, public procurement in the State of Florida is not a "one size fits all" process. For local governments, including counties and municipalities, there may be purchasing ordinances and policies that apply to the particular agency. Determining what the process is for the agency you are interested in doing work for is critical.