Rice, Cruz-Perez Bill To Create Division of Minority & Women Business Development Goes to Governor

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez to re-establish a state Division of Minority and Women Business Development received final approval today in the Senate. The division was created in the Department of Commerce and Economic Growth by an executive order signed in 2006 but was abolished with the department and its functions moved to the Division of Revenue in the Department of Treasury.

“Women- and minority-owned businesses should have equal opportunity to participate in the public contract process,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex). “Having a division dedicated to assisting these businesses will help to create a more level playing field. This is about economic justice and equal employment opportunity. While we need to do more, this will contribute to our goal to ensure that opportunities in New Jersey, one of the most diverse states in the nation, are available to all.”

“It must be a priority of the state to support businesses statewide and to promote the inclusion of companies owned by women and minorities,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Establishing the division will give these businesses the tools they need to compete and to thrive. The benefits we provide to these job creators will have a ripple effect, benefiting residents who are employed by these companies and the economy as a whole.”

Under the bill (S668), the division would be headed by a State Chief Disparity Officer within the Department of Treasury. The division would administer and monitor policies, practices and programs that further the state’s efforts to ensure equal opportunity for minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises in purchasing and procurement by State departments and agencies, including independent State authorities.

The State Chief Disparity Officer would monitor the State’s public contracting process for the purpose of compiling information on the awarding of contracts to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises, including the total value of all contracts and the percentage of the value of those contracts awarded to minority-owned and women-owned business enterprises.

The officer would periodically report its findings to the Governor and the Legislature.  The bill directs each State department and agency, including independent State authorities, to designate a disparity officer to act as a liaison with the State Chief Disparity Officer.

In addition, the bill provides that contracts awarded through the State’s small business set-aside program that are valued at less than $200,000 will not be publicly advertised for bids but will, instead, be negotiated with small businesses using a competitive contracting process.

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 31-0. The Assembly approved it by a vote of 47-22-2.