Whenever the Ohio Department of Administrative Services enters into a contract for the purchase of supplies and services to be used by state agencies, Ohio law permits counties, townships, and municipal corporations to purchase those same supplies and services, at the same price, by "joining in" on those contracts. This law provides a substantial benefit to counties, townships, and municipal corporations because it allows them to avoid the competitive bidding procedures which would be required if they entered into such contracts independently. However, despite the convenience of that approach, it automatically limits the options of local government; they are often required to purchase from distant vendors and to pay the same prices paid by the State of Ohio, even if they could get a better deal locally. That is about to change.
Effective March 30, 1999, counties, townships and municipal corporations will be able to purchase supplies and services from another party, including another political subdivision of the state, without competitive bidding and without participating in a state contract. In order to do that, the terms, conditions, and specifications of the contract must be equivalent to those which could be obtained from participating in a state contract but at a lower price. The political subdivision must also maintain records which are sufficient to establish that those limitations have been met.
Ohio laws regarding government business transactions have always been designed to assure fairness and uniformity, but it is encouraging to see that the Ohio legislature also recognizes the same economic realities that we have come to accept in our own households: why pay top dollar when we can buy the same thing, at a better price, locally?