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Governor Charlie Baker announces the passing of the Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government.On Tuesday, August 9, Governor Charlie Baker praised the hard work by the Massachusetts legislature, commenting on the “bipartisan support not commonly seen in government today,” when he signed into law the unanimously passed Act to Modernize Municipal Finance and Government. Though described as “weed whacking” a fair number of times in the Governor’s remarks, the importance of this legislation cannot be understated—it is the first major overhaul of municipal laws in more than 50 years, bearing widespread support from cities and towns across the Commonwealth.

What does it mean for me/my city or town/my agency?
The Act, among many other accomplishments, updates thresholds for small scale construction projects and materials. The Act facilitates streamlined procurement of small construction-related materials and services by increasing the current $10,000-$25,000 threshold up to a new threshold of $50,000. Additionally, it allows municipalities to save time and money by using the Statewide Contracts (SWCs) managed by the Operational Services Division (OSD). The Act, as it relates to these construction projects and procurement changes, goes into effect on November 7, 2016. Further, although the title of the Act refers to the many municipal statutes that were updated collectively, state agencies also are affected directly by the specific changes to the construction statutes.

I conduct my own procurements; why should I use Statewide Contracts?
Municipalities still may conduct their own procurements; however, using SWCs can help save you time and money. (State agencies are required to use SWCs.) By using SWCs, you do not need to invest valuable time developing solicitations, posting notices, issuing bids, evaluating responses, and executing contracts. OSD has negotiated the pricing or required competitive quotes, selected the appropriate vendors that meet qualifying criteria, and outlined the services the vendors perform relative to the contract. We’ve done the work to bring the best value/best price to the contracts, so you can forgo this step in the process.

Now that the threshold has been raised to $50,000, OSD will create new Statewide Contracts for tradesperson services, i.e. plumbers, electricians, and carpenters (among many others). In the past, cities and towns and state agencies found these types of SWCs to be valuable tools that streamlined the due diligence work needed to find licensed and skilled tradespersons. We expect these new SWCs to be widely used by municipal and state agencies requiring tradespersons for their construction projects.

OSD Sourcing Leads also will be amending certain existing contracts and updating affected Contract User Guides to add new products and services now allowed under the new Act. For example, existing contracts that may have been subject to the $10,000 construction services limit, such as low voltage cabling, will have new guidance to expand the limit to $50,000 and detail the new steps required to meet the Act requirements.

How should I be preparing for the November 7 effective date?
An additional requirement of the new law that will affect all municipalities and state agencies is the required posting of certain bid notices on COMMBUYS. There are a number of activities that local government agencies might consider undertaking now to ensure that you will be ready to meet the new requirements when the legislation takes effect. These activities include:

  1. Contacting OSD’s Local Government Enablement Team to set up a COMMBUYS account for your city or town.
  2. Attending COMMBUYS training to learn how to post notifications and bids, and utilize Statewide Contracts for the purchase of goods and services.
  3. Recommending that your current vendors register in COMMBUYS, which will allow them to receive notices you post and also to receive notices of other opportunities from Commonwealth entities in their areas of business. Vendor registration in COMMBUYS is free and takes only a few minutes to complete. Simply advise your vendors to visit COMMBUYS.com and click the “Register” link to begin.

For state agencies, further guidance on how to post bid notices will be provided in the coming weeks.

How is OSD preparing?
OSD also has been looking forward to the enactment of this legislation, as it allows us to better serve our customers – the local governments and state agencies that purchase goods and services from our SWCs and use the COMMBUYS Market Center to make those purchases, solicit bids, and post notices. While the changes to the procurement requirements under OSD’s purview do not take effect until November 7, 2016, OSD currently is developing a plan to:

  1. Amend and/or update all Statewide Contracts impacted by the new legislation to reflect the new $50,000 threshold for construction materials and construction services and detail any steps required to do this properly;
  2. Initiate a procurement to create a tradespersons contract to offer a list of regional, pre-qualified vendors to perform various construction services up to $50,000; and
  3. Investigate opportunities to develop new Statewide Contracts for the procurement of certain construction materials such as pipes, gravel, and asphalt, to name a few.

OSD is excited by the prospects offered by this new legislation and looks forward to working with you to modernize your construction procurement practices.

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