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Local Agencies Now Required to Provide Electronic Copies of Project Documents to Contractor Plan Rooms

The California State legislature recently passed AB 2036, codified as Section 20103.7 of the Public Contract Code, which provides that “[a] local agency taking bids for the construction of a public work project or improvement, upon request from a contractor plan room service, must provide an electronic copy of a project’s contract documents at no charge to the contractor plan room.”  Section 20103.7 of the Public Contract Code took effect January 1, 2011.

California has approximately 32 plan room services throughout the state which allow contractors to conveniently access public contract bid documents. These contractor plan rooms are entitled to a free electronic copy of local agency public contract documents upon request under Section 20103.7 of the Public Contract Code. The law does not specify the electronic form in which contract documents  must be produced, or the timeframe for production.  Nothing in section 20103.7 suggests that local agencies are required, at their expense, to create electronic contract documents in specialized formats.  However, local agencies may wish to familiarize themselves with contractor plan room services and their preferred electronic formats, because larger bid pools may result from placement of bid documents with plan rooms.  Timely submission of electronic documents to plan rooms may further assist agencies by encouraging a greater number of contractors to bid on agency projects.

Section 20103.7 does not require local agencies to provide all bidders electronic copies of contract documents at no charge – only contractor plan rooms, and only upon request.

Local agencies should consider taking steps such as the following to comply with the law and maintain control over the contract information sent to potential bidders:

  1. Include in electronic documents provided to plan rooms the date when the documents were prepared and a notice that all bidders are responsible for ensuring that their bid is submitted on the latest project documents, and that all addenda are included, by contacting the agency project manager.
  2. Include a watermark on the electronic documents provided to plan rooms so the agency can distinguish the electronic plan room copies from hard copies provided to bidders, and check whether bids submitted on electronic documents contain the latest addenda.
  3. In addition to providing electronic copies of project documents to contractor plan rooms,  post them on your agency’s website and provide bidders with an opportunity to register to receive updates and addenda via e-mail.

These steps can help prevent award complications and bid disputes that may arise from submission of bids on incorrect or incomplete versions of project documents. We will continue to monitor developments in public contract bidding law and provide updates on further developments. For more information or assistance with other construction or contract matters contact Eric Casher at 800.464.3559.