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Proposed bill in Virginia tackles disparities in state contracting
Published on 02/04/2021

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia has announced support for a version of a procurement bill currently pending in the state legislature which would support minority- and woman-owned businesses (MWBEs). The bill as introduced set a participation goal for a class of businesses including small businesses owned by white men, but the version Northam is supporting includes new MWBE-specific participation goals.

The bill, HB 1784, as introduced set a participation goal of 42 percent by state-certified small, woman- and minority-owned (or SWaM) businesses. As mentioned, the SWaM certification includes firms owned by white men, and to date, the state has not used race- or gender-conscious goals in contracting, sticking with the SWaM certification goals. After the results of a disparity study which found that only 13.4 percent of state contracting dollars went to MWBEs during the period of July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2019, despite MWBEs making 32.8 percent of all SWaMs, Governor Northam has announced support for a version of the bill which would set a goal of 23.1 percent of state contracts going to minority- and woman-owned SWaMs.

In addition, the bill would open a new department within the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) which would collect demographic data and work with the state's Department of General Services to ensure that efforts are made towards meeting participation goals across agencies and among prime contractors working with the state.

"Our administration remains committed to ensuring Virginia supports and benefits from our diverse business community, and this legislation will help advance our ongoing efforts to make the public procurement process more equitable, inclusive and transparent," Governor Northam said in a statement.

Read HB 1784 at https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?211+sum+HB1784.

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