OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 1182 (File 475, as amended by Senate “A,” “B” and “C”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS, AUDITING OF LARGE CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS, ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW OF CERTAIN LAND TRANSFERS, GRANT PAYMENTS TO MUNICIPALITIES, ADVERTISING ON STATE BUILDINGS AND CERTAIN EXEMPTIONS TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes several unrelated changes affecting (1) state construction and contracts, (2) state real property, (3) the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), (4) certain state grant payments to municipalities and neighborhood revitalization zones (NRZs), and (5) the comptroller.

Regarding state construction, the bill (1) expands the role of the Connecticut Mental Health Center's oversight committee, (2) establishes rotating construction services selection panels for contractors and consultants, and (3) alters the process for selecting consultants. It authorizes the Department of Public Works (DPW) commissioner to provide the city of New Haven with design and construction services for a tunnel roadway. With respect to contracts, it increases, from 60 to 90, the number of days the public works commissioner, constituent units of higher education, and the Joint Committee on Legislative Management have to award contracts after they open bids.

Concerning state real property, the bill (1) removes the DPW commissioner's 20-year limit on leases of state property to municipalities; (2) establishes a procedure to review proposed sales and transfers of state property to determine if it has significant natural and recreational resources that should be preserved; and (3) specifies to which facilities certain energy and environmental standards apply. It also requires the DPW commissioner to make recommendations to the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee concerning placing commercial advertisements on certain state properties.

It exempts from disclosure under FOIA certain documents concerning (1) minors and (2) contract negotiations. It requires state and local agencies, other than the General Assembly, to file their regular meetings agendas with the secretary of the state or appropriate clerk.

The bill authorizes the comptroller to appoint assistant comptrollers as necessary to conduct business. Any assistant comptroller the she hires will be in unclassified service and serve at her pleasure.

Finally, the bill makes technical and conforming changes.

*Senate Amendment “A” authorizes DPW to provide New Haven with design and construction services for a tunnel roadway.

*Senate Amendment “B” adds the provisions concerning (1) construction services selection panels and (2) public meeting notices. It eliminates provisions (1) increasing the amount spent on art in connection with state projects and (2) creating a state construction inspector. It also changes the procedure for reviewing proposed sales and transfers of state property, including involving the Office of Policy and Management.

*Senate Amendment “C” exempts state land transfers of 10 acres or less by the Departments of Transportation or Education from the bill's requirements concerning public comments on the land's natural and recreational resources.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except the DPW commissioner's authority to contract with consultants is effective July 1, 2007 and the provisions addressing (1) labor and material bonds, (2) the review of state property and the related account, and (3) FOIA, which are effective October 1, 2007.

CONSTRUCTION AND CONTRACTS 4, 6, 15-21, AND 24

Connecticut Mental Health Center

The bill expands the role of the oversight committee for the design and construction of the addition to the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven being designed and built by a nonprofit organization. The bill requires the committee to:

1. approve all legal and related documents concerning the project's design, construction, and budget;

2. have access to all documents and materials, including project budgets, that the nonprofit organization or any of its agents, contractors, or consultants possess or control;

3. be fully informed of the project's progress by the nonprofit; and

4. meet at least once a month.

The bill specifies that the nonprofit organization is solely responsible for selecting design consultants and construction contractors.

Bonds

The bill increases the maximum exemption for labor and material bonds on state or municipal construction contracts valued at more than $ 100,000. Under current law, contractors and subcontractors do not have to furnish the bond when labor and material costs are $ 50,000 or less. The bill raises the exemption to $ 100,000. These bonds guarantee payment to labor or material suppliers.

Construction Services Selection Panels

By law, panels within DPW review and recommend to the commissioner the most qualified contractors to work on certain state construction and Connecticut Health and Education Facilities Authority (CHEFA) projects. The head of the agency requesting the project and the DPW commissioner appoint the panel members. Agency head appointees rotate by project and the commissioner's appointees serve one-year terms.

The bill seeks to codify current practice concerning the projects that require a contractor selection panel. Current law requires a panel on all state building construction contracts, including those awarded by competitive bid. The bill would limit the panel to the statutorily specified projects that are exempt from competitive bidding. These projects are (1) the community court, (2) the downtown Hartford higher education center, (3) a correctional facility or juvenile detention center needed to address overcrowding, and (4) a student residential facility for the Connecticut State University system.

The bill limits, to a single project, the terms of panel members the DPW commissioner appoints and removes his authority to fill vacancies since members serve for only one project. Since agency head appointees rotate by project, the bill effectively requires all members to so rotate.

By law, the commissioner appoints four of the five members on the panel that recommends consultants for state construction projects, three of the five members on the CHEFA panel, and three of the six members on the contractor awards panel.

Consultant Selections by the DPW Commissioner

By law, the DPW commissioner may select consultants to work on state building construction contracts or state programs without going through the competitive bidding process if the consultant fees do not exceed $ 50,000 or $ 300,000 on a construction project for a constituent unit of higher education. The bill removes the limitation on state construction contracts and makes the dollar threshold for selecting consultants for state programs consistent by setting it at $ 300,000 for all programs.

The bill changes the process for choosing the consultants. Under the bill, as under current law, the commissioner solicits the consultants. However under the bill, the responses are received by a selection panel that the bill establishes (see Below). The panel, rather the commissioner, establishes a list of the most qualified consultants. The commissioner can only select consultants from this list.

The bill specifies the tasks that consultants may perform on state construction projects.

Selection Panel. The bill establishes within DPW a separate State Construction Services Selection Panel to recommend consultants for the alteration, repair, or addition to certain real assets. Under the bill, the panel consists of five members whom the commissioner appoints. Members must be current employees of DPW or any state agency that contracts for consultant services. Just as it does with construction services panels, the bill limits, to a single project, the terms of panel members the commissioner appoints. The bill specifies that the panel is not considered a board or commission.

Consultant Selection and Duties. The bill authorizes the DPW commissioner to enter into a contract with any consultant on the list to perform a (1) range of services or (2) tasks pursuant to a task letter detailing the terms of the contract. Any contract the commissioner enters into for services or tasks (when the task letter states the consultant will provide services over $ 100,000), is subject to approval by the State Properties Review Board (SPRB).

Reviews by the State Properties Review Board. The bill increases, from $ 50,000 to $ 100,000, the threshold for the estimated cost of consultant services on most projects requiring approval by the SPRB under the state facility plan. In addition, the bill eliminates a requirement for projects that are estimated to cost more than $ 500,000 or $ 2 million in the case of a constituent unit of higher education, other the UConn, and include consultant services of $ 20,000 or more to obtain SPRB approval.

New Haven's Tunnel Roadway

The bill allows the DPW commissioner to provide the city of New Haven with design and construction services for the design, construction, renovation, repair, or improvement of a municipal tunnel roadway. DPW may only render these services in connection with the construction of Gateway Community College's consolidated campus. The bill specifies that the commissioner may accept funds from the city to cover the cost of the services and any related administrative costs the state incurs.

STATE REAL PROPERTY 5, 7-8, AND 14

Energy and Environmental Building Standards

Current law requires most state facility construction projects approved and funded on or after January 1, 2007 to meet certain energy and environmental standards. The bill specifies that the requirement applies to facilities for which the State Bond Commission allocates all bonds on or after January 1, 2007. It also specifies that it does not require the redesign of a facility if it was designed in accordance with the standards and before the implementing regulations are adopted.

By law, the environmental standards apply to new facilities costing $ 5 million or more, other than school construction projects, salt sheds, parking garages, or maintenance facilities. The standards require state facilities to meet or exceed the silver building rating of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's rating system for new commercial construction and major renovation projects or an equivalent standard. The alternative standard must at least include a two globe rating under the Green Globes USA design program.

Review for Natural and Recreational Resources

This bill requires state agencies, departments, and institutions to notify the Council on Environmental Quality, Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary, and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner before selling or transferring state land. The notices (to be on a form the council approves) must be published for 30 days in the Environmental Monitor, allowing the public and other state agencies to submit comments to OPM on the land's significant natural and recreational resources and recommended preservation means, among other things. The OPM secretary, together with the DEP commissioner, must (1) respond to each comment received and (2) publish the public's comments and their responses in the Environmental Monitor for at least 15 days before selling or transferring the land or land interest.

The bill requires the DEP commissioner to develop a policy for reviewing the notices and making a draft recommendation to OPM as to whether all or a portion of the land or land interest should be preserved by (1) transferring or granting a conservation easement to DEP; (2) imposing restrictions or conditions on the transfer; or (3) transferring all or a portion, or granting a conservation easement, to an appropriate third party. Whenever DEP recommends preserving land using one of the methods described above, it must include a report explaining the basis for its recommendation. DEP's recommendation for the land, and the accompanying report, must be published in the Environmental Monitor for 30 days. The DEP commissioner, must (1) respond to each comment received; (2) make a final recommendation to the OPM secretary; and (3) publish the public's comments, their responses, and her final recommendation to OPM in the Environmental Monitor (the bill does not specify for how long).

After the OPM secretary receives DEP's recommendation, he must make a final determination concerning the land. The bill requires the secretary's decision to be published in the Environmental Monitor for at least 15 days before selling or transferring the land or land interest.

The bill's provisions concerning the review of state land for natural and recreational resources do not:

1. affect (a) purchase and sales agreements in effect between the state and any prospective purchaser before October 1, 2007 or (b) any subsequent sale or transfer made from such a purchase and agreement;

2. apply to General Assembly land conveyances; or

3. apply to the sale or transfer of state land between state agencies;

4. apply to any easement that is granted to a municipality or regulated utility that (a) primarily benefits the state or a state agency or institution, (b) results from a state or federal regulatory process, or (c) is necessitated by the construction or reconstruction of any Department of Transportation (DOT) highway or facility;

5. apply to the sale or transfer of state land that an agency designated as surplus before October 1, 2007 provided the agency complied with the bill's provisions at the time of the designation;

6. apply to the transfer of 10 acres or less by DOT or the Department of Education;

7. limit state agency or public comments to a particular subject matter;

8. limit the publication of its required notifications, comments, or reports solely to the Environmental Monitor; or

9. limit the solicitation of public comments solely to the Environmental Monitor.

The bill does not limit the applicability of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act. In addition, it exempts state agencies, departments, and institutions from its notice and public comment requirements if they prepared an (1) environmental impact evaluation pursuant to the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act or (2) environmental statement pursuant the certain other state or federal laws.

Environmental Review Account. The bill establishes the “environmental review account” as a separate, nonlapsing account in the General Fund to support the notice and other requirements described above. The account may contain any money required or allowed by law including proceeds from the sale of state property that are not otherwise designated. If it has a balance at the end of a fiscal year, the balance must be carried forward for the next fiscal year, but the account's value cannot exceed $ 100,000.

The account may only be used to (1) prepare or implement the recommendations or reports required by the bill or (2) prepare or review environmental impact evaluations required by the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (see BACKGROUND).

Commercial Advertisements

The bill requires the DPW commissioner, within available resources, to make recommendations to the GAE Committee by February 1, 2008 concerning (1) placing commercial advertisements on state buildings, facilities, stadiums, arenas, or theaters, by advertisers or sponsors and (2) granting naming rights to such advertisers or sponsors for the state property.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 22 AND 23

Exempt Records

The bill makes changes to the public's access to records. It exempts from disclosure under FOIA (1) the name and address of any minor enrolled in any parks and recreation program administered or sponsored by a public agency and (2) certain documents created during the contract award process.

The bill exempts responses to public agency requests for proposals or bid solicitations, and any related record or file created by the agency, if the agency's chief executive officer certifies that the public interest confidentiality outweighs the public interest in disclosure. The documents may remain confidential only until the contract is executed or negotiations have ended, whichever comes first.

Public Meeting Notices

The bill requires state agencies, other than the General Assembly, to file their regular meetings agendas with the secretary of the state. It requires local agencies to file their agendas with the town clerk or the clerk of a multi-town district or agency, whichever is applicable. By law, agencies must file notices at least 24 hours in advance of the meetings.

The bill requires state agencies and the secretary of the state to post the agendas on their websites but does not specify when the postings must occur.

By law, unchanged by the bill, state and local agencies have to file the agendas in their respective offices. Under current law, they have to file their agendas only with the secretary of the state or the appropriate clerk if they have no regular office or place of business. The General Assembly is exempt from the filing requirement.

GRANT PAYMENTS 9-12

The bill shortens the time the comptroller and the treasurer have to process certain grant payments to municipalities and NRZs. Under current law, the comptroller has 15 days after the time the OPM secretary certifies the amount payable to draw an order on the treasurer. The treasurer then has 15 days to pay the grant.

The bill requires the comptroller to draw an order on the treasurer within five days of receiving the certification, and the treasurer to then pay the grant. (Under the CORE-CT system, these checks are issued almost immediately. )

The payments to municipalities are from the (1) local emergency relief account, (2) local capital improvement fund, and (3) grant-in-aid program for computer-assisted mass appraisal systems. The NRZ payment is from the neighborhood revitalization zone grant-in-aid program.

BACKGROUND

Connecticut Environmental Policy Act

The Connecticut Environmental Policy Act requires state agencies to evaluate, in writing, the impact a proposed action would have on the environment. Among other things, these environmental impact evaluations, or EIEs, must examine the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental consequences of the proposed action, and any reasonable alternatives to it. OPM reviews EIEs, determining if the agency has taken all practicable steps to avoid or minimize environmental harm.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Government Administration and Elections Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

12

Nay

0

(03/26/2007)

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

29

Nay

0

(04/25/2007)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

31

Nay

7

(05/04/2007)

Energy and Technology Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

18

Nay

1

(05/15/2007)

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

48

Nay

3

(05/23/2007)

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

13

Nay

6

(05/31/2007)