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Taking a Closer Look at State Contracts

Louisiana has billions of taxpayer dollars tied up in thousands of contracts—for goods and services, consulting, privatization and more. Lawmakers, frustrated by the continuing battles to balance the state budget, are pushing to take a closer look at those contracts.

“What this bill would do is set up some sort of review process so we can go back home and tell our constituents that we vetted the contracts and they are a good deal,” Representative Kenny Havard explained his “Privatization Review Act” during the Senate Finance committee hearing Tuesday.

The bill, approved by the full House, would have required legislative approval before private management could take over hospitals or jails, for example. It would also have required public bids for all privatization contracts in excess of $5-million.The Governor’s Office and the Division of Administration opposed the bill, however, and its progress was brought to a screeching halt.

Another House-approved bill to curb contracts had better success with the full Senate Tuesday.

“It’ll give us the chance in Joint Budget to look at all contracts--for professional, personal or consulting contracts greater than 40-thousand dollars,” Baton Rouge Senator Bodi White explained, while handling Thibodaux Representative Dee Richard’s H.B. 142 on the Senate floor.

“Joint Budget would have three options: approve, change it, or they’ll defer that contract,” White elaborated. “Any dollars that’s deferred would go into this ‘Higher Education Financing Fund’.”

Richard, the author, was elated with the 37-0 Senate vote to approve his bill.

“I’ve been trying to get this bill passed for three years,” he said.

Whether the bill will become law remains to be seen, in light of the administration’s opposition to the “Privatization Review Act” by Havard. Governor Bobby Jindal still has the power of the pen over Richard’s contract review bill. The governor can sign it into law, or allow it to go into effect without his signature. But he could also veto it.