by Louis J. Jenny & Geoff Corey | January 14, 2014
As DBIA ramps up our federal advocacy efforts, we’re excited to look ahead to what’s in store for 2014. Since it is a Congressional election year, and Members of Congress want time to campaign, there will be a shortened congressional calendar. This means that there are only 29 working weeks to pass what are generally considered the “must pass” bills. These include finishing Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations and passing all of Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations, raising the debt ceiling, finishing a water bill, renewing surface transportation funding and considering the usual defense authorization bill. Further, there are many other issues each party would like to address including immigration reform and tax reform. The bottom line is the likelihood of them passing everything they’d like to and need to is slim to none, but we’re working hard to ensure legislation we support become priorities.
The good news is that the Bipartisan Budget Act negotiated by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has set a general outline for spending and eased the effects of sequestration. Their deadline to approve specific spending priorities is January 15, but it would not be uncommon for that to be extended for a short time.
The law funding surface transportation projects, MAP-21, is set to expire at the end of the year. When it was originally passed in 2012, DBIA was able to secure language in the bill encouraging the use of design-build. Transportation is the fastest growing design-build sector in the United States, so we will be working hard to maintain this language and possibly expand it. The first hearings on a new bill were held January 14.
DBIA is also excited about the progress we’ve made with the Veterans’ Administration. After numerous meetings at the VA office in Washington, D.C., the VA Construction Assistance Act (H.R. 3593) was introduced in November with bipartisan support. Among other things, the bill directs the VA “to the extent practicable, [to use the] design-build process to minimize multiple change orders” for construction or alteration of major VA medical facilities. This is important because a GAO report issued this last spring found 23 out of 50 VA projects are experiencing cost increases over initial estimates. Of the 50 projects, only four are design-build, but all four of these are either on budget or estimated to produce savings when completed. So far, H.R. 3593 has two co-sponsors. While we work to drum up support for the bill, we’re also making sure the language in the bill is satisfactory to DBIA members and the design-build industry. We’re currently working with Congress on hearings for this bill, but our efforts to reform the VA’s project delivery methods will remain a long-term project.
We also continue to make progress on the Design-Build Efficiency & Jobs Act (H.R. 2750). This is a bill DBIA has been working on throughout 2013 along with our coalition partners AIA, AGC, ASCE, ACEC and ASA. This important bipartisan legislation would require federal agency heads to better justify when their agencies short-list more than five finalists on a specific project in the two-step process, and limit the use of single-step design-build to projects that are less than $750,000. In December, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the bill for which DBIA submitted testimony. Many committee members asked solid questions and expressed support for the bill, and we’re optimistic about its chances of moving forward through the process, and hopefully becoming law.
All of these efforts will require resolve and diligent work from DBIA, but we are confident we will make real progress. Continue to follow DBIA and Design-Build-Blog for more updates on these initiatives going forward, and check back next week for a look at our goals for state and local advocacy in 2014.