Wilk Introduces Legislation to Tackle the Abuse of Secretive No-Bid Contracts

As part of his government accountability legislative package, Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) has introduced Senate Bill 1367 (SB 1367), which would prohibit a state agency from awarding a no-bid contract to a company that has made a charitable donation on behalf of the governor in the preceding 12 months.

“I am deeply concerned about the increasing use of massive no-bid contracts. I believe a transparent and accountable government is a good government and have introduced legislation earlier this month to require oversight hearings for their renewal and protections for whistleblowers employed under those contracts,” said Wilk. “SB 1367 is an additional step to preserve public trust in our procurement process by ensuring no-bid contracts are awarded on merit and not political connections.”

As reported by the Los Angeles Times in April 2021, behested payments surged to nearly $227 million in 2020 compared with 2019, when companies gifted $12.1 million on the governor’s behalf.

This bill seeks to address the perception of pay-to-play stemming from the governor’s increasing use of secretive no-bid contracting. California’s Political Reform Act regulates “behested payments,” which are requested by elected officials and made by donors to charitable organizations an elected official supports. There is no monetary limit for behested payments, and only donations of $5,000 or more are required to be reported to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“We need to have confidence in our government,” said Wilk. “There should be no appearance of impropriety at all.”

This is another government accountability reform bill introduced by Senator Wilk. Earlier this year, and in response to the variety of issues with the state’s $1.7 billion no-bid contract with PerkinElmer for COVID-19 testing at the Valencia Branch Laboratory, he introduced SCA 7, SB 1271, and SB 947. SCA 7 & SB 1271 would require no-bid contracts of $25 million or more entered on or after January 1, 2023, to be subject to legislative oversight prior to a renewal or extension. SB 947 would ensure that full whistleblower protections are provided to workers employed by companies that hold these no-bid contracts.

These bills will be brought next to the Senate Rules Committee for referral to the appropriate Senate policy committees for hearing in March.