Federal Design-Build Legislation Evolves

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Federal Design-Build Legislation Evolves

by Louis J. Jenny  |  February 14, 2014

Recently, some proposed amendments have emerged to a federal bill DBIA has been working to pass into law.  The Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act (H.R. 2750) would codify a DBIA Design-Build Best Practice for federal two-step design-build projects, and limit the use of single-step design-build. (Read about what H.R. 2750 would do in detail here.)  While some of these proposed changes would water down the bill and others would enhance it, the simple fact is the emergence of these proposals at all is a good sign we will see some concrete action from Congress.

The following proposed amendments were specifically prompted by a House Subcommittee hearing in December, another very good sign of progress. The changes in the bill emerged from the Corps of Engineers at the request of the House committee of jurisdiction.  The amendments do two things:

First, instead of requiring that the head of an agency approve when more than five finalists are used in two-step design-build projects, the amendments instead give that authority to the head of the contracting activity.  This slightly waters down the bill as introduced.
Second, the amendment removes the $750,000 threshold over which no single-step approach can be used, and instead makes two-step the default approach unless the solicitation is detailed enough such that minimal design/engineering is needed to make a proposal.  Specifically, the amended language says two-step selection shall be used unless…

“…the head of the contracting activity, with power of redelegation no lower than the activity’s headquarters, determines that one step turnkey design-build selection procedures are authorized by law, and that the solicitation’s scope of work is sufficiently detailed with specifications and drawings to require minimal design or engineering efforts from a contractor to prepare a proposal in response to the solicitation.”

Legislating is an iterative process.  It is rare that federal legislation as introduced becomes law.  As a bill is reviewed and considered, different stake holders weigh in, point out problems or alternatives and negotiations among lawmakers take place.  This process produces changes in the bill and is generally positive.

It is also true that in the course of a two-year Congress literally thousands of bills are introduced, the vast majority of which see no further action than that.  So the fact that interested parties are offering amendments and alternatives to H.R. 2750 is a sign that the congressional powers that be are interested in the bill and it could see action from this Congress.

At this point it isn’t clear if the committee will accept these amendments, but these or something like them are likely.
We anticipate some preliminary consideration of the bill in committee as early as March.  In the meantime, we’ve been walking the Halls of Congress with our coalition partners promoting the bill.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me (advocacy@dbia.org).