SPRINGFIELD -- A company that has lost several state contacts asked legislators Wednesday to pass a law giving preference to Illinois bidders.

By DANA HEUPEL


STATE CAPITOL BUREAU


SPRINGFIELD -- A company that has lost several state contacts asked legislators Wednesday to pass a law giving preference to Illinois bidders.


Tabetha Cohen, who works for Rely Services, unveiled an initiative dubbed Illinois 1st at a Statehouse news conference. A data-entry worker for the company, she said she and about 20 other employees at the Carlinville office expect to lose their jobs by the end of the month because Rely lost a secretary of state contract to a North Carolina company.


“There’s a much bigger picture here than the loss of one contract,” said Cohen, a single mother of five and a disabled Air Force veteran. The loss of jobs also will devastate Carlinville’s economy, she said.


After losing several contract renewals, Rely’s workforce in Carlinville could drop from 134 full- and part-time employees to about seven by mid-July, said Brenda Witt, an administrator for the firm.


Company administrators have contended in the past that Rely, which is based in Hoffman Estates, was outbid on renewing state contracts because Illinois’ minimum wage is higher than some other states. Rely employs workers to input or scan data from paper forms into computers.


Cohen and other company representatives urged lawmakers to enact legislation that would, among other things:


* Define an Illinois vendor as one whose principal place of business is in Illinois or pays a majority of its payroll to Illinois residents. The North Carolina company that outbid Rely on the secretary of state contract does have an Illinois office and is considered a resident vendor under current law.


* Give discounts to Illinois vendors during the bidding process, and consider the economic impact of awarding contracts to in-state companies.


* Rebid all current contracts held by out-of-state companies and apply the new guidelines to the re-bidding process.


* Allow appeals to go to somewhere other than the agency that awarded the contract. Rely unsuccessfully appealed the loss of the secretary of state contract. Company attorney Rick Verticchio of Gillespie said secretary of state officials denied the appeal without addressing Rely’s main points.


The guidelines under the Illinois 1stt proposal are similar to those used in Indiana, Cohen said. In two years, the number of contracts held by in-state bidders there has increased from 60 percent to 80 percent, she said.


Company representatives also urged a Senate task force to begin its mission of studying Illinois procurement laws with an eye toward giving preference to Illinois businesses.


“We recognize state wheels often move slow, but it needs to start moving faster,” Verticchio said.


 


Dana Heupel can be reached at (217) 788-1518 or dana.heupel@sj-r.com.