Buy American: Bill inspired by ECC trustee concerns passes the Senate
By Emily McFarlan email@example.com March 30, 2012 10:04AM
State Senator Mike Noland, D-Elg
Updated: May 2, 2012 8:10AM
ELGIN — It was one of John Dalton’s first meetings as a member of the Elgin Community College Board of Trustees about a year ago.
Representatives of several local unions had just toured the college’s new welding lab, part of its Facilities Master Plan project, and they pointed out the welding booths had been made in Indonesia, Dalton said. They wondered why the college hadn’t purchased booths made by American companies, he said.
So did the new trustee.
Trustees’ hands were tied, he was told. The Illinois Community College Purchasing Act requires colleges to take the lowest bid.
But they were “tied with string,” Dalton said. That law could be changed.
And on Wednesday, legislation introduced by state Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, to change that law, making it possible for community colleges to take into account where an item was made when making purchasing decisions, passed the Illinois Senate.
“It just seems like our tax dollars should be spent to put Americans to work. It seems better for our economy, it seems better for public policy,” Dalton said. “And I feel proud to have a role getting this halfway through the General Assembly.”
Both Dalton and Trustee Robert Getz approached Noland earlier this year, and Getz said, “The guy did good.” They expressed their concerns about purchasing foreign-made products for the college, despite the fact American-made products were available at a competitive price, according to the senator’s office.
For any purchases over $10,000, the Illinois Community College Purchasing Act requires the college to put out a request for proposal, according to Elgin Community College spokesman Jeff Julian. The college then must accept the lowest responsible bidder, with few exceptions, Julian said.
For anything up to $10,000, the college must get three quotes and take the lowest, he said.
Noland agreed in a written statement, saying, “Price has to remain the primary consideration.”
“But where a product was made matters. When we spend money on American-made products, we’re supporting our local economies, creating jobs and demonstrating to taxpayers that we’re keeping our community’s best interests at heart,” he said.
The board of trustees certainly believes in supporting the local economy — it hired local workers for all its Facilities Master Plan projects, Trustee John Duffy said. But the board never has discussed the Illinois Community College Purchasing Act as a whole, Duffy said.
And Elgin Community College President David Sam said “while there is merit” in Senate Bill 2929, the board has not had the opportunity to review the legislation. It will do that at a future board meeting, Sam added.
“We appreciate Sen. Noland’s continued support of ECC and its students,” he said. “One of ECC’s primary responsibilities is to ensure that taxpayers’ funds are spent responsibly, and reinvested locally, if possible.”
Noland’s bill now goes before the Illinois House.