The Government Administration and Elections Committee voted 16-0 to approve a bill mandating that the five investigative posts sought by the State Contracting Standards Board be filled before the first quarter of the next fiscal year ends, in late September. Senate Bill 473 also would expand the contracting board’s authority to probe quasi-public agencies and would shield it from any emergency budget reductions once the fiscal year is underway. The latter provision would match protection the legislature has long provided to other major watchdog groups such as the Freedom of Information and Elections Enforcement commissions and the Office of State Ethics. Prior to the Diamantis scandal, Lamont had said the contracting standards board was performing watchdog functions already performed by other agencies, something that Fox and other advocates for the board have rejected. The board was empowered to review Executive Branch agencies’ contracting processes to ensure they were transparent, cost-efficient and in compliance with the law. It also would have authority to suspend any procurement effort deemed improper.