Capitol Media Services
The state Senate has approved legislation to spell out that if there is a tie between two firms, and one is based elsewhere, the contract has to go to the Arizona operation.
Potentially more significant, Arizona companies actually could bid more than their out-of-state competitors and still get the job.
How much, though, will vary on where the competitor is based.
"I just believe if people do business in the state of Arizona, live here, reside here, pay taxes, domicile here, they ought to get preference,'' said Senate President Russell Pearce.
"All this does is take into account taxpayers who contribute to Arizona and our economic growth,'' he said. "We just simply recognize our folks (are) kind of like our family.''
Jim Mapstead, a member of the board of Local First Arizona, said this state is one of only three that does not give some sort of preference for home-grown firms.
He said that when there is a tie, the names of the companies "are thrown into a hat and drawn blindly.'' The result, said Mapstead, is the deal could as easily go to a firm from China as one from Arizona.
Mapstead said ties are not as rare as they might sound, with the state finding itself in this situation from three to five times a year.
The proposal to actually let a higher Arizona bid undercut a lower one from elsewhere is more complex.
Under the terms of SB 1014, the state agency reviewing the bids would be required to recompute it to account for the state where the firm was based. That calculation would be based on what preferences that company's home state provides for its own home-grown firms.
A list of preferences among all states, prepared last year by the state of Virginia, showed, for example, that California currently gives a 5 percent preference to in-state firms on construction contracts for things like bridges and buildings, and for the purchase of any supplies.
In this scenario, a $10 million bid by a California firm for an Arizona project would be considered to really be a $10.5 million bid. That would require the state to instead award the contract to an Arizona firm with a $10.2 million bid.
"This would just level the playing field for all Arizona companies operating here in the state,'' Mapstead said. "Our preference is to keep the monies that we have here in the state of Arizona instead of exporting them to other states.''
Not every firm that does business in Arizona would get the preference.
To qualify, a company would have had to maintain its headquarters in Arizona for at least 12 consecutive months before submitting the bid. In fact, the measure is crafted to even define that a "headquarters'' means a principal central office where primary functions are performed, including finance, personnel, administrative and legal activities.
And the legislation also requires that the company has paid all taxes assessed against it.
The legislation, which has not had any opposition to this point, still needs House action before going to the governor.