(a) With the exception of contracts for public works whose competitive bidding requirements are governed exclusively by Title 39, all contracts of whatever nature for labor, services, work, or for the purchase or lease of materials, equipment, supplies, other personal property or other nonprofessional services, involving fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) or more, made by or on behalf of any state department, board, bureau, commission, committee, institution, corporation, authority, or office shall, except as otherwise provided in this article, be let by free and open competitive bidding, on sealed bids, to the lowest responsible bidder.
(b) A "preferred vendor" shall be a person, firm, or corporation which is granted preference priority according to the following:
(1) PRIORITY #1. Produces or manufactures the product within the state.
(2) PRIORITY #2. Has an assembly plant or distribution facility for the product within the state.
(3) PRIORITY #3. Is organized for business under the applicable laws of the state as a corporation, partnership, or professional association and has maintained at least one retail outlet or service center for the product or service within the state for not less than one year prior to the deadline date for the competitive bid.
(4) PRIORITY #4. A business that is physically located in the state and that is more than 50 percent owned by a person who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable and who has at least 24 months' active service in the United States' military, naval, or air service, or who has less than 24 months of active service in any of the foregoing and was separated with a service-connected disability, or a national guardsman or reservist who completed active federal service for purposes other than training or who served at least 180 days of continuous service for purposes other than training.
(c) In the event a bid is received for the product or service from a person, firm, or corporation deemed to be a responsible bidder and a preferred vendor where any state higher education institution, department, board, bureau, commission, committee, institution, corporation, authority, or office is the awarding authority and the bid is no more than five percent greater than the bid of the lowest responsible bidder, the awarding authority may award the contract to the preferred vendor.