A recent opinion piece in this publication (“Will the General Assembly reverse the 2018 GDOT carve-out on E-Verify for contractor bids” by D.A. King) contains a number of omissions and factual inaccuracies.
King’s opinion piece questioned the ethics of S.B 445, legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2018 legislative session. S.B. 445 was considered “agency legislation” which is typically a bill that ensures that an agency’s code is updated to reflect various changes in policy or circumstances. The bill included the extension of a deadline to submit a required affidavit as one provision in that bill. It was needed to remedy an inconsistency that was disqualifying otherwise legally eligible bidders on the basis that the affidavit arrived after the other bid documents but before bid review.
The affidavit is the only document in our bid package that is required to be submitted in hardcopy as opposed to electronically. King suggested that the affidavit could be submitted electronically; however, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s legal office maintains a strict interpretation of Georgia Code requiring the affidavit to bear the actual inked signature for notarization.
With the physical receipt of the affidavit a requirement, a delay in the mail or submission of that physical document disqualified bidders who were E-Verify approved and in some cases would have been the lowest bidder. In those instances, taxpayers paid more for the project because a qualified bidder’s affidavit was delivered late but before bid review; this bill sought to remedy that issue. This deadline extension also eliminated from the bidding process what was a “gotcha” for the smaller firms who infrequently bid our work.
GDOT appreciates that King did make the effort to reach out to the department for comment prior to publishing his opinion piece. While GDOT provided these facts, many were not ultimately included in the article. We believe readers of this publication are owed a more complete understanding of the process and the effect of last year’s bill.
King’s article states that last year’s S.B. 445 “gutted the process” to ensure the use of a legal workforce. This is not accurate. Without a doubt, GDOT ensures that the E-Verify affidavits are received before awarding any contract. S.B. 445 did not change the basic fact that a contractor’s bid will still be disqualified if there is failure to provide a notarized E-Verify affidavit – no notarized affidavit, no contract, no work. Before and after this legislation the function of receiving e-Verify remains a pass/fail requirement to a bid being considered for award. S.B. 445 simply established the deadline for receiving the affidavit prior to contract award, without altering the protections of E-verify. GDOT contract specifications were revised following the passage of S.B. 445, requiring the submittal of the affidavit within one business day of receiving bids. This is an effective deadline extension of one day. We believe S.B. 445 lessened bureaucracy while guaranteeing compliance, which ultimately will help ensure that the lowest responsible bid is awarded, resulting in better stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
King also insinuates that legislators and/or GDOT had secretly inserted questionable affidavit language into a bill on the last day of the session. This is also inaccurate. The language extending the deadline for the affidavit was part of the original bill and that verbiage was never changed. It was heard, debated, and approved in committee with this language.
The bill was then debated and approved not once but twice in both the House and the Senate. The affidavit language remained the same as first introduced on February 15. Not once in this process did a single lawmaker raise any concerns with the affidavit language. The only amendment to the bill made on the last day of session was to include unrelated language on truck routes. Had the truck route language not been included, the bill would have received final passage much sooner in the session.
Finally, King further calls for lawmakers to “reinstate the bidding system for GDOT and other public employers and their contractors are still supposed to follow.” Simply put, there is nothing to reinstate. The bidding system did not change.
Contractors without their E-verify affidavit will continue to be disqualified in bid review and cannot/will not be awarded work.
Meg Pirkle, P.E., is the GDOT Chief Engineer