May 18, 2009
Re: A-1645 - Qualified Purchasing Agent
This coming Thursday, the General Assembly will vote to concur with Senate amendments to A-1645 which amends the Local Public Contracts Law to require the appointment of a qualified purchasing agent.
This bill has been amended in attempts to render it more acceptable. However, in the end, A-1645 and its counterpart, S-770, remain an unfunded mandate on certain local units.
The bill provides that the governing body shall designate an individual to serve as its contracting agent. This individual shall be a qualified purchasing agent. Each contracting unit is required to appoint a qualified purchasing agent within three years of the bill’s enactment. In all fairness, amendments do allow the local unit to apply to the State for a two year extension upon certifying and showing documented proof of good faith recruitment efforts to appoint a QPA. Through further amendments, local units with minimal purchasing activities are granted a temporary waiver, but are still required to appoint a QPA after this time runs out. Local units having an annual operating budget of less than $2.5 million are exempt from the requirement to appoint a QPA.
The added burden of certification, training, increased spending by governmental agencies, increased salary requirements for purchasing agents (that are certain to follow) and replacing a flexibility now provided to local units with a mandate, remain most difficult for municipalities. It is unwise and unnecessary to impose the dictates of this legislation on property taxpayers, most especially now. It is too much to absorb during these times of economic contraction.
Important to note, the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, the agency charged with implementation should this bill be enacted and which agency is already short staffed and may suffer further employee reductions due to impending furloughs, expressed concerns (similar to the League’s) in a letter to the sponsors.
If the General Assembly concurs with the Senate amendments, the bill will proceed to the Governor’s desk. We strongly suspect that if enacted, it will be challenged before the Council on Local Mandates.
We urge you to contact your Assembly representatives and urge them to vote against release of A-1645.
For further information, contact Helen Yeldell at (609) 695-3481 ext. 112.
Very Truly Yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.