Davis plans to resurrect cooperative purchasing

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) last week said he will introduce legislation this year to allow state and local governments to purchase information technology products and services from the General Services Administration's federal supply schedule.

Meanwhile, opponents of cooperative purchasing have vowed to fight Davis' legislation. A measure similar to the one Davis will propose failed to pass through either chamber of Congress last year.

"I was in local government for 17 years and recognized there are tremendous savings for local governments that buy off the GSA schedule," Davis told attendees at last week's AFCEA-NOVA Annual Forecast to Industry.

A spokesman for Davis said the congressman will probably introduce the legislation within the next two weeks. "We're still kicking it around," he said.

Davis' aide said the legislation will differ from last year's because it will focus on "a very limited class" of schedule items, which he refused to specify.

Language calling for cooperative purchasing first appeared in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act. Opponents of the language last year successfully pushed to eliminate that section of FASA, despite the efforts of Davis and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, to retain the ability for state and local governments to purchase IT from the schedule.

Davis' spokesman said the proposed language will put proponents of cooperative purchasing on the offensive, as opposed to last year when they were forced to react to the all-out ban. Davis said last week he expects his measure to pass the House, but he said he was less certain of the outcome in the Senate.

Davis added that some small businesses, as well as a few large IT companies, are likely to oppose his effort.

The greatest objection to the legislation is likely to come from companies that manufacture pharmaceuticals, uniforms and emergency equipment. Although Davis' language will not cover these items, spokespersons for associations representing these companies said they fear an allowance for cooperative purchasing on IT will lead to similar exemptions for other items.

Jody Olmer, a consultant who previously led the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's efforts to ban cooperative purchasing last year, said her former constituents at the Chamber foresee a domino effect if Davis' idea becomes reality. "Once cooperative purchasing is in statute for IT, it's there for the next year and the next year for someone to hook other [items] onto it," Olmer said.

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