Liz Mathis

Liz Mathis

The Iowa Senate has passed legislation that would give Iowa businesses preference over out-of-state firms for some state government contracts. Senator Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Robbins, said it’s about “standing up” for Iowa’s business community.

“You ask Iowa business owners what they want and they’ll tell you that they support this bill,” Mathis said.

If the bill becomes law, it would only apply to state government contracts worth less than half a million dollars. If an out-of-state business submits the lowest bid, an Iowa business could still get the contract under certain conditions. The bid would have to be less than five percent higher and the Iowa business would have to agree to get paid the lower price submitted on the out-of-state company’s bid.

Nineteen Republicans in the Iowa Senate voted against the bill. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, said this isn’t “fair trade.”

“Fundamentally it is wrong to elevate Iowa companies above those of competing states,” Chelgren said.

Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, agreed.

“This bill is nothing more than a first step towards protectionism,” Johnson said.

Mathis responded, saying Iowa companies expect Iowa legislators to act in the best interest of Iowans.

“They don’t expect that you’re going to legislate for Minnesota, or you’re going to legislate for Wisconsin or protect Illinois,” Mathis said. “They want you to protect Iowans.”

The bill would not give preferential treatment to bids Iowa companies submit for road and bridge construction. It would not apply to architectural firms submitting design proposals for government construction projects either.