House votes to rein in facilities corporations
THE NEW EVANGELINE CAMPUS of South Louisiana Community College nears completion just north of St. Martinville. It is being built, with public funds, by a private nonprofit corporation that does not adhere to public bid or open records laws. (Ken Grissom)
A bill designed to rein in freewheeling private facilities corporations who build and maintain state technical school and community college campuses passed the House of Representatives 84-0 Wednesday, May 18.
HB 1160 by state Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, would impose specific requirements of transparency on the facilities corporations, including the criteria by which contractors are selected.
HB 1160 is a substitute bill for HB 921, by Davis, which would have treated facilities corporations as quasi public entities subject to public bid and open records laws.
The corporations are spending hundreds of millions in state-backed bond proceeds on projects around the state. The majority are being handled by the Louisiana Community & Technical College System (LCTCS) Facilities Corporation, which is now building a $9.2 million campus at St. Martinville.
Under HB 1160, now pending consideration by the Senate, the corporation is required to note any conflict of interest between its board members and “contracting parties” on the LCTCS website and to prevent any member with a conflict from attending meetings and voting on issues pertaining to the project in question.
It also provides that the board must publish its “selection criteria” for selecting contractors, although it is not required to select the lowest responsive bid.
The bill would require the board to hold a public hearing at the outset of each project, and to seek bids through the competitive bidding process.
Act 391 of 2007 authorized the issuance of some $198 million in state revenue bonds (increased by another $288 million in 2013) for construction and renovation projects around the state.