Bichotte to re-introduce minority and women owned businesses bill Cuomo vetoed
Lawmaker says legislation has bipartisan support
A Brooklyn lawmaker who has focused much of her time in the New York state Assembly assisting women and minority-owned businesses is pushing back against Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he vetoed a bill she sponsored.
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Ditmas Park-Flatbush) told the Brooklyn Eagle that she plans to re-introduce a bill to eliminate a cap on personal net worth that women and minority business owners have to fall under in order to qualify to bid on state contracts.
“My bill has a lot of support from Republicans as well as Democrats. Everyone sees the value in it,” Bichotte told the Eagle during a brief interview at a reception in Albany on Jan. 3.
The proposed legislation is important, according to Bichotte, who serves as chairperson of the Assembly Subcommittee on the Oversight of Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises.
The bill would allow small businesses to be able to compete with larger companies for state contracts, Bichotte said. The legislation would also help New York state come closer to its goal of having at least 30 percent of state contracts being awarded to minority and women owned businesses, she added.
Under current law, a business owner seeking to bid on a state contract under the state’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) law must have a personal net worth less than $3.5 million a year.
Bichotte’s bill was approved by the Assembly during the 2017 legislative session. The state Senate passed a similar bill.
But Cuomo vetoed the measure last month.
In his veto memo, the governor wrote that the bill is problematic.
“First of all, this bill would unnecessarily expose the MWBE program to legal challenge, because it would remove an essential component of the program without replacing it with a corresponding limiting factor. When New York established the MWBE program in 1988, it was challenged on constitutional grounds just two years later,” he wrote.
“Second, there are clear technical deficiencies which make the bill impossible to implement,” Cuomo wrote in his memo.
“Gov. Cuomo’s decision to veto a bipartisan bill that would have leveled the playing field for minority and women-owned businesses is deeply discouraging,” Bichotte said in a statement released shortly after the veto was announced.
Bichotte also charged that the current law impedes the ability of MWBE businesses to gain access to capital. Businesses in the construction and financial sectors are particularly hit hard by the current law, according to Bichotte.
Bichotte admitted that Cuomo sought to find a compromise that would have enabled him to sign the bill into law.
Under his proposal, the personal net worth cap would have been eliminated by putting in place a new internal policy in which people appointed by the governor would decide whether the cap should be lifted on a case-by-case basis.
Bichotte refused to alter her bill.
“We have seen evidence of what happens when governing from a position of strength and enacting laws versus from a weakened position just internal policies that can easily be eradicated,” Bichotte stated.
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