Legislation threatens to jeopardize vital services in Ventura County

VENTURA, Calif. – Legislation currently pending in a California State Senate committee threatens to jeopardize the County of Ventura’s ability to provide vital health care, social services, mental health and public safety services to the county’s most vulnerable populations.

Assembly Bill 1250 was authored by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, and is sponsored by the Service Employees International Union. The bill has already passed the Assembly and is now being considered by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.

“The restrictions AB 1250 places on contracting for county services will inhibit the County’s ability to provide those services to the community,” said Mike Powers, County Executive Officer. “And these are not just any services, they are core, critical services, essential to the health and well-being of the County’s residents.”

The bill seeks to prevent counties from contracting with community-based organizations, nonprofits, local businesses and other providers of quality local services. Currently, Counties regularly contract with businesses and organizations that have the expertise, capacity or the ability to deliver services.

“Hampering our ability to contract with medical providers would devastate our health care system,” said Powers. “The successful public/private partnerships that run our community health care clinics provide for more than 500,000 patient visits every year to our underserved, homeless and otherwise vulnerable residents.”

The County’s two hospitals, 19 primary care and 26 specialty clinics rely on more than 500 professional services firms for physicians, critical care nurses, laboratory technicians and pharmacists. In addition, the Human Services Agency, which deals with the county’s most-vulnerable populations, relies heavily on community-based provider organizations for program areas such as nutrition, employment services, training for foster homes, and many others. Other County agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, Probation Agency, Information Technology and Behavioral Health, would also be affected.

The bill’s impact on Information Technology would be especially severe because the County currently contracts out for resource-scare technologies such as cybersecurity, software engineering, and database administration.

“We have budgeted up to $440 million for service and professional contracts this fiscal year,” said Catherine Rodriguez, County Chief Financial Officer. “A large number of these contracts could be jeopardized by the legislation. If the bill passes into law, we will have to go through each contract individually to confirm how many are actually impacted.”

A study by the County’s General Services Agency found that, based on the number of agreements that would have to be reviewed, the procurement workload will increase by at least 55 percent and, should the Request For Proposal requirements be met, timelines would be extended by at least 90 days. To maintain current service levels, additional staffing would be required at an estimated cost of $940,000 annually.

The bill also places new requirements on contractors. Potential contractors would be forced to disclose personal information on the organizations’ executives. The County believes this requirement would result in fewer responses to the competitive solicitation.

The bill would not prohibit counties from entering into contracts, but according to the California State Association of Counties, the bill is so restrictive that it would have that effect. Cities have been excluded from the provisions of AB 1250.

The Legislative Counsel’s Digest on AB 1250 states: “The bill would require the county to clearly demonstrate that the proposed contract will result in overall costs savings to the county and also to show that the contract does not cause the displacement of county workers. Additionally, the bill would require an the county to conduct an audit of contracts for personal services in excess of $100,000 annually to determine whether cost savings have been realized and would require the contractor to reimburse the county for the cost of the audit.”

“Our concerns are with the provisions of this bill, not our valuable labor partners,” said Powers. “We believe we have the systems and controls already in place to determine the most effective way to deliver critical services to our communities.”

The bill is opposed by a vast coalition of more than 200 public, private and non-profit organizations including:
California District Attorneys Association
California State Sheriff’s Association
Chief Probation Officers of California
First 5 Association of California
Computing Technology Industry Association
California Trucking Association
Emergency Medical Service Administrators’ Association of California
California State Association of Counties
The Boards of Supervisors for 46 California counties

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