Critics say proposed school bill would create 'pay to play' culture

SAN DIEGO - A proposed bill could change how local school districts award contracts for public projects.

On Wednesday, state legislators will hold a hearing on Assembly Bill 1971, which would allow school bond-funded construction projects more than $1 million to be awarded to any company the district decides based on "best value."

Under the bill, schools could select a bidder not solely because they have the lowest bid, but based on other criteria for evaluating the bidder's qualifications.

"I don't think this bill should pass at all. I think it's a bad idea," contract attorney Kevin Carlin said.

Carlin analyzed the proposal. He told 10News he is concerned the bill would create a "pay to play" culture.

"Once you allow an elected body to choose to do other than the objective criteria of lowest responsive and responsible bidder you then introduce some subjectivity into the award of these contracts which then can lead to the fraud, favoritism and corruption," he said.

Carlin says the corruption would be similar to the Sweetwater Union High School District scandal. That is where board members were convicted of awarding contracts to people who had bribed them.

Assembly member Raul Bocanegra proposed the bill. His spokesperson told 10News the measure promotes transparency. He says it is in the school's best interest to still get the best deal.

"If you pay more for a school facility than you have to, you're by definition avoiding the ability to get additional school facilities for that cost-savings," Carlin said.

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