House bill

Pennsylvania House bill aims to boost veterans’ chance to land state government contracts

September 22 – HARRISBURG – A bill passed in the Pennsylvania House this week seeks to include veteran-owned small businesses in the Commonwealth’s Small Diverse Business program.

The legislation, if eventually passed, would increase opportunities for veterans seeking state government contracts across all agencies, according to the lead sponsor of Bill 2682, State Representative David Rowe, R-Snyder/Union.

Veteran-owned small businesses were removed as a qualifying designator for the Small Diverse Business program in 2015 under an executive order from Governor Tom Wolf. Veterans can still qualify for the program, but not as easily. They must fit other designations like being a minority or being disabled.

The governor’s order was actually intended to address the lack of diversity in public procurement for construction work and much more, including for veterans, and created the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and opportunities for small businesses.

Veteran-owned businesses have moved into a specific program, the Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE). Rowe says the VBE didn’t help and points to program data.

“Our veterans have given so much to us and restoring the entrepreneurial benefits they enjoyed before Wolf’s executive order would allow them to continue to create jobs that fuel economic growth. It would also allow them to invest in our communities in the same way. way that they’ve invested in protecting and preserving our freedoms with their service,” Rowe said.

Target targets for contract sourcing across all branches set following release of disparity study in 2018: 26.3%, 15%, 4.6% for diverse small business participation (SDB), Small Business (SB) and Veteran-Owned Businesses, respectively.

The office’s latest annual report shows the Commonwealth falling short of these targets: 11.72% for SDBs, 8.13% for SBs, 0.40% for VBEs.

Of the $4.2 billion spent by the Commonwealth on goods and services in the 2021 financial year, $856 million, or 20.25% combined, went to SDB, SB and VBE businesses, according to the annual report. While this represents a 30% increase in all areas over the prior year, the Veterans share was only $17 million.

Rowe’s measure passed the House Committees on Commerce and Appropriations this month without a dissenting vote. Three attempts by Democrats to amend the measure before the final vote failed.

An amendment would have expressly declared that a veteran-owned business would be a “small” business and would also have required verification through the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The second sought to refer the bill to the state House Committee on Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness. The latest attempt was to add the above revisions, minus the committee referral, and also raise the statutory participation target from 3% to 6%.

Of the $4.2 billion spent by the Commonwealth on goods and services in the 2021 financial year, $856 million, or 20.25% combined, went to SDB, SB and VBE businesses, according to the annual report. While this represents a 30% increase in all areas over the prior year, the Veterans share was only $17 million.

Rowe’s measure passed the House Committees on Commerce and Appropriations this month without a dissenting vote. Three attempts by Democrats to amend the measure before the final vote failed.

The bill passed 189-13, with dissenting votes coming from Democratic representatives. It now moves to the Senate, which has just seven sitting days left this year – six in October, one in November.

Despite the tight schedule, Rowe is optimistic that he will become law. The bill was introduced in June and made its way through the House. He said it takes three days in session to get a bill through either house and hopes it will in the Senate this fall.