Two-Step Design-Build Bill Advances in Congress
by Louis J. Jenny | May 22, 2014
On May 21, we saw important advances on two fronts for H.R. 2750, the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act. As we’ve written before, this bill would encourage Design-Build Done Right through better use of two-step design-build in federal contracts and limit the use of single-step or turnkey procedures.
On the first front, the U.S. House committee with jurisdiction over H.R. 2750, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR), formally considered the bill. Such consideration basically means opening the bill up to debate and amendment by committee members, then voting to essentially recommend that the full House consider the bill. Committee consideration of some sort is almost always required before any piece of legislation is considered by the full House. Further, most bills introduced in the House never get this committee consideration; they just quietly die at the end of the two-year Congressional sessions.
OGR’s action followed months of work by us here at DBIA, often along with our coalition partners at, primarily, AGC and AIA. We have been meeting with key senior staff on the committee and with staff from all the members of the committee, both Republicans and Democrats. During these many meetings we discussed the need for the bill, sought support and generally raised the profile of H.R. 2750. Once the committee consideration was announced, DBIA’s Lisa Washington sent a letter in support of H.R. 2750.
At the kick-off of the committee session, both Reps. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the respective Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee (pictured), endorsed the bill and spoke in favor of it, giving it an important bi-partisan stamp of approval. Then the committee went about its business making a few changes to the bill. First, they expanded its reach beyond just civil construction to include military. This is good, and what we had always pushed for. Then, Rep. Lynch (D-Mass) offered an amendment that changed from $750,000 to $1.5 million the cap on the size of contracts that can use the single-step turnkey approach. This is a change we would probably rather not see in the bill (though originally Lynch wanted $3 million). We will have a chance to revisit this issue later in the process. Finally, on a voice vote, the committee passed the bill.
That same day Rep. Mulvaney (R-SC) offered a version of H.R. 2750 as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which the full House was considering. The amendment was accepted by the House on a voice vote and then, on May 22, the House easily passed the larger defense bill. Our strategy had always been to attach the language of H.R. 2750 to this bill and we appreciate Rep. Mulvaney working with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), to offer this amendment.
Mirroring action in OGR, the Mulvaney amendment also expands the language of H.R. 2750 to include military construction which, again, is good. However, in what was an attempt to raise the $750,000 single-step cap to $1 million (similar to the OGR action), there was a drafting error in the amendment which DBIA discovered (always read the legislation!). If this language is allowed to become law it could be problematic. We have been assured it was merely an unintentional error and we should be able to clean it up later.
Now we move to the Senate. The uncontentious and bipartisan way the related measures moved in the House is good news going forward, but we still have some work to do. We are hoping to have a companion to H.R. 2750 introduced in the Senate and we will be reaching out to DBIA members to encourage their Senators’ to support the bill.