castroSPRINGFIELD – A longtime advocate for extending state procurement opportunities to minorities, women, veterans and people with disabilities, State Senator Cristina Castro is leading a measure to improve diversity, clear up bureaucratic issues and modernize the state’s contracting process.

“Companies with roots in our communities should not face challenges to doing business with the state – especially as we undertake historic infrastructure projects across Illinois,” said Castro (D-Elgin). “These changes will help build capacity and facilitate a streamlined commerce process in our state.”

To eliminate long-standing obstacles and increase diversity in state contracting, the package includes provisions to modernize the procurement process, improve transparency, encourage responsible competition and safeguard taxpayer dollars in infrastructure projects.

Supplier diversity improves access to government contracting for businesses owned by minorities, women, veterans and people with disabilities. The measure drives Illinois’ supplier diversity goals forward by requiring goals to be set for minority business development programs and tasking the Commission on Equity and Inclusion with oversight of these programs to ensure they are implemented effectively, among other provisions.

To address the slow pace of the procurement process, the measure tackles efficiency by allowing contractors to fix procurement violations while the procurement process moves forward, and allowing bids to be posted or accepted online.

Further, the initiative prioritizes local competition and control by ensuring counties follow competitive bidding requirements that apply to other units of local government. It also eases the joint purchasing process to make it easier for towns, villages and counties to utilize existing state contracts – reducing the need for duplicative contracts for similar needs. The legislation also adjusts threshold categories to allow more businesses to qualify as small businesses so they can more easily access contracting opportunities with the Illinois Tollway.

A priority of Castro’s, one provision in the measure aims to move the state toward contracting with more Illinois companies on construction projects by expanding the definition of an Illinois business. Under the legislation, a business operating and headquartered in Illinois for one year prior to submitting a bid would be eligible to receive a 4% bid preference on state projects.

“To go with a lower bid from an out-of-state company might look like it saves money at first, but keeping the money local will pay off in the long term,” said Castro. “This is a win-win for Illinois businesses and our economy.”

House Bill 5511 passed the Senate Friday with bipartisan support.