Preventing Point Street Overpass Cost Overruns: A Lesson in the Legislature’s Minority-Sponored-Bill-Auto-Table-Function
The ProJo reports that Warwick State Rep. Peter Ginaitt is upset about cost overruns on the Point Street overpass project.
Ginaitt said he was troubled by a Dec. 4 article in The Providence Journal reporting that the overpass project’s cost has grown more than 75 percent and that it is more than two years late. He demanded an explanation from James R. Capaldi, director of the state Department of Transportation.
Dana Nolfe, the DOT’s communications director, said that Capaldi met with Ginaitt Wednesday and that the department will explain the project’s background to him in writing.
“We need to tighten the rules on the construction industry,” Ginaitt said, perhaps by adding standards to make sure the low bidder for a project can build it on time and within budget.
In his press release on the matter, Ginaitt further explains:
Besides requesting a full accounting of this issue from Director Capaldi, Representative Ginaitt urged the DOT chief “to have a process in place to evaluate these projects more thoroughly to avoid such a situation, and to rebuild the confidence of the taxpayers to secure their support for years to come.”
But as ProJo reporter Bruce Landis explains, the idea of having such a “process in place” is not a new one:
Legislation that would have imposed federal standards on state contracting and required that the state take contractors’ past performance into account in awarding contracts were filed by Republicans in both houses of the Democratic-dominated General Assembly last legislative session, but both bills died.
For example, House Minority Leader Robert Watson submitted H7681, AN ACT RELATING TO PUBLIC PROPERTY AND WORKS — STATE PURCHASES, to the House Transportation Committee in February of this year. The act would have “provide[d] that state purchasing laws are consistent with laws applicable to federal funding sources, and that contracts are awarded on the basis of specific standards of responsibility.” In short, “low bidder” would be only one of the criteria, and not necessarily the most important. The ability to perform the work on time and within budget would be just as important. Watson’s bill was referred to the House Finance committee and “Scheduled for hearing and/or consideration” on 05/17/2006.
Guess what? It got considered right off the edge of the table. Such is the fate of minority-sponsored legislation in a one party state. Maybe this year, should Rep. Watson re-submit the legislation, Rep. Ginaitt and some of his fellow Democrats will back the measure, or at least help get it out of committee.