[r63] Messmer Report: Exercising our commitment to Hoosiers

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 25, 2011

In what is now the fifth week of the House Democrats' strike, the legislators that faithfully show up to work every day to perform the people's business have been able to make good on the announcement made by the House and Senate leaders last week and work together to make progress on pending legislation. Working with our legislative colleagues in the Senate, the House has begun committee hearings on bills that are coming over to us from the Senate. No votes can be taken on any of the bills until my Democrat colleagues return, but we are at least able to receive public input and testimony on these bills and discuss them at some length.

I am sponsoring one of the Senate Bills assigned to a House committee that would bring about cost savings for government agencies. Senate Bill 533 makes changes to design-build projects undertaken by state agencies, which are projects in which a single contractor designs and constructs the projects.

Current law requires a multi-step process that state agencies must follow in which the agency must create a committee to find qualified contractors for the project and select at least three after rating and scoring the contractors and reviewing their bids. After the committee selects three contractors, the agency must then send a request to each contractor for proposed designs for the project. Each contractor must then submit, in two parts, a proposal containing specific items that the agency will then review.

This is a long process for an agency to go through, and it creates added costs for the agency and for those bidding on them. SB 533 streamlines the process for design-build projects that will cost less than $1 million by combining steps and adjusting other requirements. Through shortening this process, our public schools, local governments, and other state agencies will all be able to save some money on these projects. Historical data shows that most projects can see a 5 to 10 percent overall savings using the design-build process.

Many of the bills that we were able to pass in the House before the Democrat walkout began have also been able to progress through the Senate these past few weeks. Six bills that began in the House have already made it through the Senate and signed into law by the governor. One of my bills, House Bill 1297, was unanimously accepted by a Senate committee and now goes to the Senate floor. HB 1297 allows more financial institutions to hold public deposits without any added risk by changing the requirements of financial institutions and how or if they are able to hold public deposits of the state.

I am greatly pleased that we have been able to continue the people's business in at least a limited fashion despite the House Democrats' unwillingness to work. However, I hope that they return soon, because our constitutional obligations to enact a state budget and draw new legislative districts are approaching quickly. By them not returning, they are pushing us closer and closer to a costly special session. I can only hope that my Democrat colleagues will soon come to their senses, end their strike, and return to do the work they were elected to do.

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Rep. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper)