Senate OKs Bill For Disabled Veterans' Contracts

The state Senate passed a bill aimed at increasing contract approvals for disabled veteran business owners today.

Sponsored by Sens. Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) and Steve Oroho (R-Sussex), the bill, NJ S2249 (22R), would revise the number of qualified disabled veterans' businesses required to designate set-aside contracts from three to two. Because of the low number of disabled veteran-owned businesses, the law’s requirement of at least three qualified bidders in any one category has been an obstacle to doling out contracts. Treasury Department spokesperson Danielle Currie told POLITICO earlier this month that the department cited the low volume of registered vendors as “a major barrier to utilizing set-asides" to meet the goal.

Reducing that number to two bidders serves as a step forward, Jeff Cantor, founder and CEO of the New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce, told POLITICO.

“There will always be low numbers of disabled veteran-owned businesses that are out there. This, at least, provides a way forward for disabled veteran businesses to compete for prime contracts in the state; so, we're very happy,” Cantor said, adding that further legislation allowing disabled veteran business owners a price preference when competing in the open bid process would be the “best way forward” and “the defining factor.”

“While veterans were away serving their country, the non-veteran community were here starting their businesses, growing their businesses,” Cantor noted.

Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) introduced a price preference law during last year’s session, but it didn’t move in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The legislation’s advancement follows a report released earlier this month by the Garden State Initiative and the New Jersey State Veterans Chamber of Commerce that the state was failing to meet a 2015 law mandating that 3 percent of state contracting agencies’ budget be set aside for businesses owned and operated by disabled veterans.

The bill now awaits action from the Assembly.

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