DBIA Legislative Update – May 2020


DBIA’s Advocacy team spends a lot of its time bringing design-build to as many communities as possible. Just like everyone else, the Coronavirus has changed the infrastructure industry on a federal and local level, so we reached out to DBIA’s Vice President of Advocacy as well as our Director of State/Local Legislative Affairs, for the latest information on how COVID-19 is affecting the industry.

Broad Federal Infrastructure Funding May Be Coming

by Louis Jenny, Vice President of Advocacy & Industry Engagement

The United States Congress can work quickly when it really wants to. For example, the recent CARES Act with its unprecedented $2.2 trillion in spending related to COVID-19 was introduced in the Senate, passed by both houses and signed into law in a mere eight days. And there is general agreement that Congress will pass more legislation directly related to COVID-19. The first bills are focused on emergency relief, but there is an expectation that Congress will then move to more traditional stimulus legislation and a broad funding for infrastructure may well be part of that.

On March 23 Lisa Washington wrote to the U.S. Congressional Leadership pointing out that design-build delivers both time and cost-efficient projects in times of crisis and that no doubt design-build will be called upon to, for example, repurpose existing structures in the healthcare response. And sure enough, many of the contracts the Corps of Engineers is letting for alternative health care facilities are design-build.

Lisa also urged Congress to pass a broad infrastructure package to get Americans back to work and address our deep infrastructure needs. Further, she suggested some provisions Congress could consider encouraging greater use of design-build.

We followed that up with a DBIA member-wide appeal urging outreach to elected officials with similar messages. (If you’re interested in participating, please contact me.)

We started this year with a broad infrastructure funding package looking at best uncertain. Now many believe one will happen, though its size and reach will be hotly debated, and it probably won’t move as quickly as the CARES Act.

COVID-19 and State Legislatures

by Richard Thomas, Director of State/Local Legislative Affairs

The impact of COVID-19 has taken a tragic toll on our nation, wreaked havoc on our economy and dramatically changed our daily lives. State legislatures across the country are working to stop the pandemic’s spread while also developing plans to keep essential businesses and services open safely. Design-builders across the country are helping state, local and federal governments deliver essential projects to meet challenges presented by this pandemic and aid in the nation’s recovery.

No state has been hit harder by this pandemic than New York where the human and economic toll on the state has been on an unimaginable scale. Governor Cuomo acted quickly to respond to the crisis marshaling the state’s resources to meet the challenge. He used emergency powers to authorize design-build for all state and local governments on critical projects and moving forward design-build will be the lynchpin to delivering New York’s recovery. Coming into the legislative session, Governor unveiled a bold vision for New York. His budget called for an additional $175 billion in transportation and infrastructure funding and greater expansion of the state’s design-build laws to deliver those projects and continue to reform the antiquated project delivery system he inherited. The New York legislature and Governor Cuomo rose to the COVID-19 challenge, quickly passing a budget to address the crisis and the state’s needs.

The bill expands design-build authority to the Office of General Services, Dormitory Authority, Urban Development Corporation, State University Construction Fund, the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Battery Park City Authority. The bill also extended the “sunset” on design-build authority an additional year from May of 2021 to the end of 2022. A “sunset” is a set date that a law expires. New York City which just got design-build authority last year is not subject to this “sunset”.

The Midwest has been a hotbed of design-build over the last few years and this year started no differently but with mixed results. DBIA advocates for the expansion of design-build authority in Iowa and Nebraska while simultaneously fighting back efforts to restrict the use of design-build in Iowa and Wisconsin. The COVID-19 outbreak forced many state legislators to re-examine their legislative priorities. Despite opposition from well-funded special interest groups, DBIA was successful in delaying and ultimately blocking efforts to restrict the Wisconsin DOT’s use of design-build. In Nebraska and Iowa, legislators have recessed meaning dueling legislation (one to expand the authority and another to restrict) is unlikely to be resolved this year.

Legislators in Kansas wasted no time as the COVID-19 crisis began. They quickly passed a budget bill and approved a new, 10-year transportation program that many lawmakers see as a much-needed, $10 billion stimulus to counter the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic. The Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program authorizes KDOT to use alternative delivery procurement methods like design-build. The bill authorizes KDOT to use up to 3% of moneys spent in the Program, on alternative delivery, increasing to 5% in 2023. The projects selected for alternative delivery, must exceed $100 million and cannot include preservation projects. KDOT is also authorized to complete three projects utilizing toll revenues for construction and maintenance, one every three years.

Design-Build is a critically important tool for state, local, federal and private owners to deliver the projects that are essential to the health and well-being of all Americans. DBIA continues our advocacy efforts to educate lawmakers at all levels why it is vital to have design-build available during times of crisis and recovery.