Davis to revive bill to open sked to states and localities

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) plans to re-introduce next month a bill that would allow state and local governments to purchase information technology products and services from the General Services Administration's schedule of contracts.

Davis fought this year to include language in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act that would permit state and local governments to purchase IT products and services off GSA schedule contracts. But the language was stripped out of the bill before it passed Congress.

Speaking at a PeopleSoft Inc. event last month Davis said he would introduce a bill "as soon as we come back in January" and noted the bill has wide support among members of the IT industry many of whom have offices in Davis' Northern Virginia district.

"In the IT industry outside of a handful of companies most of the IT companies like selling off the GSA schedules to state and local governments because the [state and local] procurement process is so complex and unpredictable " Davis said.

Davis believes those who this year opposed opening the GSA schedule to state and local governments are against open competition. "You do have some companies that have an edge in selling to state and local governments right now and will oppose that change because they've got their market share and they don't want others to have a level playing field " Davis said. "But I think it's the right thing to do."

The Coalition for Government Procurement originally supported opening the schedule but now has chosen not to support or oppose the effort. "We had been advocates of this legislation in the past but now our official association position is one essentially of neutrality " said Larry Allen the coalition's executive director. Allen said the pharmaceutical and fire-fighting industries initially had opposed the opening of the schedules but the coalition had convinced them that the move would not affect them. However the industries now are avidly opposed to the bill.

"Those who oppose cooperative purchasing became uneasy and are concerned that things would open up in the 11th hour to include their industries " Allen said. "So in the interest of maintaining association harmony we've shifted into neutral."

Pharmaceutical companies objected to the requirement that their products have to be on the GSA schedule and the companies objected to the requirement that they must offer a minimum discount price on their products.

"The result is that if these companies want to play under cooperative purchasing they have had a gun held to their head " Allen said. "They have to have the products on the schedule and they have to offer them at a statutorily mandated minimum discount. You can't offer a sweetheart price to state and local government and stay in business."

Jodie Almer director of domestic policy at the Chamber of Commerce also opposes the bill. "The business community has spoken and we believe there would be a very strong business response again to the re-enactment of this legislation."

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