(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Benjie Wimberly, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Sheila Oliver, Cleopatra Tucker, Annette Quijano and Gordon Johnson to ensure that women- and minority-owned businesses in New Jersey have equal access to state contracts was approved Monday by the Assembly.
"While progress has been made, women- and minority-business owners continue to face challenges that limit their ability to grow," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The provisions in this legislation are necessary to ensure that the equality of opportunity guaranteed by federal and state law are available to minority-owned and women-owned businesses in this state."
The bill (A-1869) would establish the position of chief diversity officer in the Division of Purchase & Property in the Department of Treasury. The chief diversity officer would monitor the state's public contracting process in order to compile information on the contracts awarded to minority-owned and women-owned businesses, the total value of all contracts and the percentage of the value of those contracts awarded to minority-owned and women-owned businesses enterprises.
The original bill, which would have established a Division of Minority and Women Business Development in the State Department of the Treasury, was conditionally vetoed by the governor. The bill approved by the Assembly was amended to concur with the governor's conditional veto.
"This will help ensure that businesses owned by women and minorities have an equal opportunity to provided needed services to the state," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We want to ensure that the state's public contracting process is fair and equitable, and this legislation does that."
"There are many competent and professional businesses looking for these types of opportunities," said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). "Having this position in place would not only ensure that women- and minority-owned businesses have an equal shot at state contracts, but that the state benefits from diverse and capable businesses that might otherwise fall through the cracks."
"It is not uncommon to hear minority-owned businesses interested in government contracts complain about being bypassed," said Tucker (D-Essex). "This bill can help determine whether this is an isolated problem, or a problem across the board, and ensure that businesses owned by minorities and women that are qualified and experienced have a fair shot at doing work for the state."
"The state has a responsibility to ensure that its contracting process is equitable and accessible to all qualified businesses," said Quijano (D-Union). "This is not about favoring one type of business over another; it is about making sure that all businesses interested in bidding for state contracts and are capable of doing the work can throw their hats in the ring and be considered."
"If they are capable of doing the work, these businesses should have the same opportunity to provide services to the state as any other business," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "Having a person monitoring the state's contracting process can help ensure that businesses owned by women and minorities are not being deprived, for whatever reason, of these worthwhile opportunities."
The bill was approved 65-10-1 and now awaits final legislative approval by the Senate.