Ehrlich to introduce his plans for state minority business program


Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is scheduled to unveil his long-awaited plan to revamp the state's Minority Business Enterprise Program today with a series of executive orders and legislation that will set aside as much as 10 percent of major state procurement contracts for minority and small firms, officials said.

The governor's announcement follows a news conference yesterday by Democratic lawmakers who presented a legislative package to improve the minority business program.

Lawmakers said their effort was not related to the governor's announcement today. The legislators said they have yet to see the report of the Governor's Commission on Minority Business Reform, a panel chaired by Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

"We've been waiting for the lieutenant governor's report in various forms since April," said Del. Dan K. Morhaim of Baltimore County, who is sponsoring some of the minority business legislation.

Herbert Jordan III, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Minority Affairs, who attended the lawmaker's news conference, said the governor has been reviewing the commission's findings and crafting a program.

Ehrlich established the commission to review the state's minority business program about a year ago, after an audit by the Department of Legislative Services showed that there was little or no accountability over the program and that state requirements were not being met.

Del. John Adams Hurson of Montgomery County, chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee, which is reviewing minority business legislation, said the governor's office informed him that Ehrlich would introduce legislation to set aside 10 percent of major state procurements for minority contractors.

In addition, Ehrlich plans to establish a requirement for how long primary contractors must retain minority firms after receiving state work, Hurson said.

Among the proposals by the lawmakers is raising the maximum personal net worth of a minority business owner from $750,000 to $1.5 million.

They also want to create a statewide listing of minority businesses with details about the firms' services, which they said will help contractors locate and hire smaller firms as subcontractors for state work.

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