As the dismal saga of bribery and extortion swirling around former Commissioner Chris Epps and Mississippi Department of Corrections contracts continues to make headlines, epic reforms to the public contracting process slipped through the Legislature with scant media attention.
Longtime champion of contract reform Representative Jerry Turner passed legislation that completely revamps the public contract review board and tightens up its procedures. Gov. Phil Bryant, another champion of contract reform, signed his bill into law on March 29.
A similar bill authored by Sen. John Polk died but a companion bill passed that further tightened definitions related to public purchasing. His bill was signed into law by Gov. Bryant on March 20.
These changes build and improve on earlier reforms Rep. Turner pushed through during the 2015 legislative session with help from Gov. Bryant’s special Task Force on Contracting and Procurement in the Mississippi Department of Corrections co-chaired by Judge Robert Gibbs and Andy Taggart.