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Rice/Cunningham Measures To Examine Opportunities For Minority And Women-Owned Businesses Clear Senate Committees

Senators Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, and Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, speak about legislation on the floor of the Senate

TRENTON – Two measures sponsored by Senators Ronald L. Rice and Sandra Bolden Cunningham which would examine and help to increase opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses were today approved by Senate committees.

One measure, S-95, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee, would direct the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) to examine and compile biannual reports detailing the number of school construction contracts that have been awarded to minority and women-owned businesses. The reports would have to include information on the total value of the contracts, and the percentage of those contracts as they relate to the total number that have been awarded by the SDA over the six months prior to the issuance of the report. Reports would be submitted to the Governor and the Joint Budget Oversight Committee.

“It is only fitting that we make sure minority and women-owned businesses have a seat at the table when it comes to awarding these school construction contracts,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “These communities contain a great deal of talent; talent that is often passed over when these contracts are being considered. By requiring the Schools Development Authority to maintain this list, we would help to ensure that all of the State’s qualified talent is given an opportunity to excel.”

“Through this bill, we are hoping to level the playing field when it comes to awarding school construction contracts here in New Jersey,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “It’s not as if there is a lack of qualified minority and women-owned construction companies, but too often, these businesses are not given the opportunity to compete for these lucrative contracts. By requiring the issuance of these reports, and requiring them to be reviewed by the Joint Budget Oversight Committee and the Governor, we would be establishing a two-tiered system of oversight, to ensure that equal access to school construction contracts is granted.”

A second measure, S-104, which was unanimously approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, would require any State department, agency, board or commission looking to engage in a debt transaction to consider using a minority or women-owned financial institution as the senior managing underwriter for the transaction. The State entity would be required to file a report to be submitted to the Treasurer and the Legislature, including specifics about the total number of minority and women-owned businesses that are qualified to serve a senior managing underwriters, the number that apply for the position, and the percentage of senior managing underwriter positions in New Jersey that are currently held by employees of minority and women-owned businesses.

“This legislation is very important as the State seems to have a history of excluding qualified minorities and women as managers of bond issues,” said Senator Rice. “In the past, the Corzine administration indicated its concern about the lack of minority and women participation at that level, yet, as in years past, qualified minority and women-owned businesses were passed over for those with which the state normally contracts. Through this bill, we are working to ensure that minority-owned businesses have the chance to fully manage and put these bond deals together, and have the same opportunities as other businesses to reap the multi-million dollar benefits that these deals yield.”

If a disparity is discovered from the report, the Treasurer would be required to set an aspirational level of utilization and compensation for minority and women-owned businesses.

Senator Rice noted that this legislation stemmed from a New York State Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Task Force report, which recommended that New York State-supported debt-issuers adopt a process to create greater opportunities to include minority and women-owned firms in bonding deals.

These measures now head to the full Senate for approval. #

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