Photo of public construction on outdoor piping with Legal Alert Louisiana label

This summer, Governor John Bell-Edwards signed a few bills that amend a handful of provisions under the Louisiana Public Works Act. These changes bring some clarifications and deadlines to a couple of different aspects of the procurement and closeout procedures on public works projects. Here’s a quick overview of the changes that public contractors in Louisiana should know.

Changes to the Louisiana Public Works Act

The Louisiana Public Works Act was enacted to protect those who provide labor and/or materials for the improvement of public property. This Act covers everything from bidding procedures to bond requirements, payment requirements, project closeout procedures, and more.

As noted above, three pieces of legislation were enacted this summer amending the LA Public Works Act.  These changes don’t affect any bond requirements or claims against such bonds, but there are still important changes to note for LA contractors bidding and working on public projects; such as revised punch list procedures, bidder information requests, and pre-approval of alternative products to be used in the project.

Punch list procedure changes

Bill overview

This first bill we’re going to cover amends LA RS 38:2248, which governs the punch list process on public projects. The current procedure still remains intact: The contracting agency is allowed to withhold the value of the punch list work until the items are completed. Once complete, payment should be released upon the expiration of the 45-day lien period. However, there is an additional provision added to this process under subsection (B)(2).

If the public entity begins to occupy, or otherwise use the public work, the punch list is required to be furnished within 10 days of substantial completion (as defined under RS 38:2241.1). Furthermore, if any changes or amendments to the punch list need to be made, the amendments must be done within 14 days of providing the punch list to the contractor.

Bidding information requirements & requests

Bill overview

The notables change under this bill amends LA RS §38:2212 regulating bidder information and time limits for bidder information requests.

Prior to the passage of SB271, a public entity advertising for a public work is required to use the LA Uniform Bid Form. However, under this new legislation, this statute will specifically prohibit the public entity from requesting any additional information or imposing additional bid requirements unless it is specifically mandated by a federal or state requirement. Any additional requirements imposed by the public entity will be deemed void, and won’t be taken into consideration in the award of the contract.

Another change related to the bidding process comes in the form of a shortened timeline to make bidder information available. Previously, bidder information would be made publicly available upon request “no sooner than 14 days following the bid opening or after the recommendation of award by the public entity or the design professional, whichever occurs first.” As of August 2022, this timeframe has been reduced to nine working days.

Lastly, speaking of “working days” — this term is now defined under §38:2211. Subsection (A)(15) has been added, and reads as follows: “‘Working days,’ for the purposes of this Part, means the days Monday through Friday, excluding recognized holidays and declared emergencies.”

Although the term “working days” will typically always exclude holidays, the addition of declared emergencies is a helpful addition — particularly during hurricane season.

Pre-approval for particular products response timeline

Bill overview

The last bill affecting the LA Public Works Act that went into effect in August clarifies how suppliers can get prior approval for alternative products or materials to be used in the improvement. The current system for doing so remains — but with a slight tweak.

A potential can still submit particular products that are different than the ones listed in the contract documents for approval seven days prior to the opening of the bids. Once received, the public entity or design professional must approve or deny the alternative products in writing within three days. The tweak addresses what happens if a written approval or denial isn’t provided within three days. If either party fails to respond within the allotted three days, the submitted product “shall be considered approved.”