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State Government Contracts – A Research Guide

This is a guest post by David Mao, Law Librarian of Congress.

As part of the In Custodia Legis Research Guide series, my Law Library colleagues Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer recently wrote about government contracting. Their Beginner’s Guide is an excellent resource for learning about contracting with the federal government.

I began to wonder about what information is available for those interested in learning more about contracting with state governments when I saw the scene pictured below.  How could one police department (in this case, the Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Police), have cars of such differing makes and models?  To answer this question, I took a closer look at the government contracting and procurement laws of the state of Maryland. Modeled on Barbara’s and Robert’s federally focused Beginner’s Guide, the following are some resources that may be helpful.

Publications

One of the overarching principles of public procurement is full and open competition. The following photograph seems to suggest that the goal is being met in Maryland (or at least in Montgomery County)—can you tell why? (Photo by David Mao)

One of the overarching principles of public procurement is full and open competition. The following photograph seems to suggest that the goal is being met in Maryland (or at least in Montgomery County)—can you tell why? (Photo by David Mao)

While there does not appear to be a legal treatise dedicated to Maryland state procurement, West’s Maryland Law Encyclopedia is a general reference that includes information on Maryland laws, regulations, and cases.

The Maryland Board of Public Works: A History provides a detailed history of the Maryland Board of Public Works, the “highest administrative body in the Maryland state government.” First created in 1825, the Board consists of the state’s Governor, Comptroller, and Treasurer, and now derives its ultimate authority from the state Constitution. The Board is “responsible for the expenditure of all capital appropriations and the superintendence of nearly all state public works projects.” The full text of the volume is available as an Archives of Maryland electronic publication.

Maryland Contract Weekly was originally titled Maryland Register Contract Weekly. The publication began in 1992 and included notices of bids requested and awards announced on all Maryland state contracts valued above $25,000. It also included some county and municipal bid and award notices. Publication ceased on July 1, 2006, when all requests for proposals and invitations for bids were required to be posted electronically.

Statutes and Regulations

Maryland’s general procurement law can be found in the Maryland Code under the State Finance and Procurement article (Titles 11 through 19). Online access to the Code is available through the Maryland General Assembly website.

Relevant Maryland procurement regulations are in Title 21 of the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR). Online access to the Title 21 as well as the rest of the COMAR is available through the Office of the Secretary of State website.

Court and Agency Decisions

The Maryland Board of Contract Appeals  is the state executive branch agency that has jurisdiction over appeals involving bid and contract disputes between Maryland and contractors and/or vendors doing business with the state. Board decisions (available on the Board’s website) are subject to judicial review in Maryland Circuit Courts. Final decisions of the Board are used as precedent by State agencies and the contracting community.

Judicial decisions of the Circuit Courts usually are not published. Decisions issued by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals of Maryland are published in the Maryland Reports. The Maryland Judiciary also makes appellate court opinions available online from 1995 forward.

Websites

Maryland Board of Public Works

The official site for the Board states that its mission “may be summed up as protecting and enhancing the State’s fiscal integrity by ensuring that significant State expenditures are necessary and appropriate, fiscally responsible, fair, and lawful.”

The Board specifically

  • Approves the expenditure of all general obligation bond funds
  • Approves the expenditure of funds for capital improvements except for State roads, bridges, and highways
  • Approves the sale, lease, or transfer of State real and personal property
  • Controls procurement policy, adopts procurement regulations, and approves most contracts exceeding $200,000
  • Approves allocation of funds paid to each county for school construction and adopts rules for the administration of the Public School Construction Program
  • Preserves and protects the State’s submerged lands, shoreline, and tidal wetlands and issues licenses to dredge or fill wetlands, and
  • Debars vendors from entering into contracts with the State when the vendor has been convicted or the vendor’s participation will adversely affect the integrity of the procurement process

eMaryland Marketplace

As noted above, the print Maryland Contract Weekly ended publication in 2006. In its place Maryland has eMaryland Marketplace (eMM). More than just a notice of bids and awards, it is the state’s “internet-based procurement system, and is a business tool that provides an efficient means to improve vendor’s access to state procurement information.”

Local jurisdictions may also have rules and regulations related to procurement. For example, Montgomery County Maryland’s Department of General Services has an Office of Procurement.

For those who are interested in the government contracting and procurement laws in other states, a good place to start is the American Bar Association publication Guide to State Procurement: A 50-State Primer on Purchasing Laws, Processes and Procedures. Compiled by the Section of Public Contract Law, the book offers a “quick reference guide to get a feel for the law in a given state.”

We hope you found this guide helpful. Do you have a favorite resource related to state procurement? Please let us know in the comments section. If you have any questions, please contact the Law Library of Congress.

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