So, how much of that public money is going to put people to work who are women or from communities of color?
According to MnDOT, the state transportation agency was not able last year to meet even its own modest goal of making sure 8.75 percent of its contracts went to people who weren’t white males.
Instead, it ended up sharing that public funding with contractors whose workforce contained only 6.59 percent nonwhite employees.
In their original form, these bills would have required the Transportation Commissioner to include in every bid contract a goal for hiring contractors and workers who meet federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise definitions, and require contract bidders to note on their bids what percentage of their workforce comes from that pool of talent.
If they don’t meet the goal, or can’t show why they deserve a waiver, MnDOT wouldn’t be able to give them the contract. Even if they receive a waiver, a contractor who gets the contract but doesn’t meet the goal would be penalized financially.
“We are committed to getting MnDOT to attain their goals of hiring construction companies owned by women and people of color,” Higgins said at a recent hearing on the bill. “Some contractors have exceeded those goals. Others can’t manage to get their workforces to look like the people of this state.”
However, in these tight budget times, the bill would have potentially cost more tax dollars to enforce. So in a Senate Finance Committee hearing this week, Higgins agreed to water down the bill to let a collaborative of volunteers working with MnDOT to improve its hiring of minority and women contractors and employees figure it out and report back to the Legislature next year.
The modified bill is headed for a floor vote in the Senate. An undiluted House bill has yet to come before the House Finance Committee for approval.