After a year’s worth of crisscrossing the state holding hearings on the lack of minority inclusion on various state contracts, state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has introduced a package of legislation aimed at increasing Minority- Women- and Disadvantaged-Business Enterprise inclusion in state jobs and building small business capacity.

BUILDING BUSINESS— State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, announces the introduction of 10 House  bills meant to increase participation by minority- and women-owned businesses on state contracts.

“This package of legislation would ensure that small businesses and minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged-owned businesses across Pennsylvania would receive a fair share of the state work funded by the taxes they and their employees pay,” said Wheatley during a Jan. 26 announcement of the bill’s’ introduction.

The package of 10 bills addresses individual impediments that small and minority-owned business owners presented during the hearings held by the House Select Committee on Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Inclusion, which Wheatley chairs.

Joining Wheatley and about 100 business owners for the announcement were Rep. Ron Buxton, D-Dauphin, Philadelphia Democratic reps. W. Curtis Thomas, Cherelle Parker, Babette Josephs, Kenyatta Johnson, Vanessa Lowery Brown and Tony Payton.

Wheatley introduced the first bill, H.B. 2140, which contains the language of eight others in the package.

The exception was H.B. 2144, which had to be introduced separately because it would create a cabinet-level position for MWDBE oversight, the Secretary of Minority and Women Business Development.

Among the others, H.B. 2141, would change the definition of a “small business” in the state procurement code to include entities with gross revenues as high as $45 million. It also increases the employee limit from 100 to 250.

House Bill 2142 would set up a statewide bonding program designed to help small businesses build capacity and compete on state and public contracts.

House Bill 2143 would require state agencies and state-affiliated agencies, including state-owned universities, to significantly increase contracting opportunities for disadvantaged businesses. The entities also would have to establish a target of 25 percent of their procurement and construction dollars going to disadvantaged businesses in all state contracts and grants.

Currently, only contracts issued by the Department of General Services have set targeting goals. A related bill in the package, H.B. 2147, would require state agencies and state-affiliated agencies and state-owned universities to place 10 percent of their procurement funds into a small business reserve for award to qualified small businesses.

House Bill 2145 would establish a mentor/protégé program designed to help small businesses to compete successfully for prime and subcontract awards by partnering with large companies as their mentors.

House Bill 2146 would add a “reciprocity of certifications” section to the procurement code to create greater uniformity consistency in the state certification process for minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises.

Republicans Mark Mustio, R-Moon Township, and Karen Beyer, R-Lehigh-Northampton, were also present to introduce H.B.s 2149 and 2148, respectively. Mustio’s bill calls for the tightening of payment timelines for contractors and subcontractors from a maximum of 14 days to five days.

Beyer’s bill would require prime contractors doing business with the state to provide documentation of 13 specific activities aimed at ensuring genuine attempts are made to reach the state’s disadvantaged business subcontractor participation requirements.

All bills in the House package have been referred to the state government committee. A similar package of legislation is being assembled in the Senate.

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