Design-Build Delivers

Tackling State Design-Build Legislation: California’s PDB Bill as a Starting Point

January 22, 2024 DBIA
Design-Build Delivers
Tackling State Design-Build Legislation: California’s PDB Bill as a Starting Point
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When DBIA was first established 30 years ago, only three states allow the use of design-build for public projects, so advocating for design-build authority became vital to DBIA's mission.

In 2023, more than 78% of design-build related bills at the state level were passed, up from 25% in 2022. Among the 160 design-build related bills introduced in 2023, there were a record number of progressive design-build or PDB bills, including SB 706, in California, which was led by DBIA’s Western Pacific region.

In this episode of the Design-Build Delivers Podcast, brought to you by USCAD, we talked to a few of the people who made that bill happen, expanding PDB authority to all agencies in California. We take what they learned and we discuss ways to scale it and apply those lessons along with DBIA resources like our updated State Statute Report and our upcoming Model Legislation to guide other states to successfully pass bills to advance design-build authority.

Stay tuned for more from this episode with Design-Build Delivers Minisodes, longer conversations with our guests. Coming soon!

Guest(s), in order of appearance:

Brandon Dekker, M.S., DBIA
Principal, San Diego and Irvine Office Practice Leader
Cannon Design

Christopher Sullivan
Preconstruction Project Manager
Sundt Construction

Marianne O'Brien, FAIA, LEED AP, DBIA
Principal, Architect

Beau Biller
Platinum Advisors

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Erin Looney  00:13

When DBIA was first established 30 years ago, only three states allow the use of design-build for public projects. Advocacy then became vital to DBIA's mission. Now, only two states have yet to embrace authority for design-build projects: Iowa and North Dakota. 


Erin Looney  00:30

At the state level, 2023 was a pretty good one with more than 78% of design-build related bills at the state level being passed. That's up from 25% in 2022. Among the 160 design-build related bills introduced in 2023, there were a record number of progressive design-build or PDB bills, including SB 706, in California, which was led by DBIA’s Western Pacific region. Hi, I'm Erin Looney, and on this episode of the Design-Build Delivers Podcast, brought to you by USCAD, we talked to a few of the people who made that bill happen, expanding PDB authority to all agencies in California. We take what they learned and we discuss ways to scale it and apply those lessons along with DBIA resources like our updated State Statute Report and our upcoming Model Legislation to guide other states to successfully pass bills to advance design-build authority. First, I sat down with Brandon Dekker from Cannon Design and Chris Sullivan from Sundt Construction to discuss the bill itself and how it got to the finish line. Next, I spoke with SmithGroup’s Marianne O'Brien about why this bill matters and how the team overcame some of the bigger objections to it. Finally, Beau Biller from Platinum Advisors got into the vital role of an advisor to make sure bills like this one get through and make the impact they're intended to make. So Brandon and Chris, let's start by going back a bit.



Erin Looney  01:58

We've published a couple posts on the Design-Build Delivers blog recently about SB 706 throughout the fall in California and how DBIA Western Pacific was instrumental in its passing and pointing them back right now for details on the bill itself. And today in this episode, we're going to focus more on the legislative process and how DBIA regions and national can use what you all did, as well as some new resources from national in their own legislative efforts. So for just a moment, though, let's assume everyone listening read those posts when they first came out, or, I mean, here's hoping not, but maybe they didn't read them at all, give us the backstory on the bill. 


Brandon Dekker  02:39

This has been a labor of love for all of us over the past few years, to say the least. And really the, the genesis of SB 706 was we as a as a board, for the Western Pacific region, we're looking for ways to make a difference, big part of that as advocacy and being able to advance design-build, but also, more importantly, advanced progressive design. And we had talked about the importance of floating and Bill throughout the last few years and, and found that we were kind of looking to a sponsor to take the lead, whether it be a county agency or something like that, and we just we weren't getting any traction. So collectively, as a team, what we decided to do was go ahead and sponsor our own bill. And so it was a monumental moment for us back in November of 2022. To be able to advance it forward, we realized that there was a real gap out there were counties, cities and special districts, a lot of public agencies are unable to use progressive design, build delivery, and there was an outcry of, of owners that were really wanting to use it but just didn't have the authority to do. So that's really kind of the spark that spurred on our journey.


Chris Sullivan  03:54

There's other entities in California that are allowed to use progressive design-build higher ed had been using it for a long time. So the you know, the footprints were there already. And so when you have these counties that are talking to counterparts across these aisles, I think they recognize Well, that's a really great tool. I wish we could use that. And you know, and they didn't have legislative authority or at least interpretations from their counsel that they didn't have legislative authority. And so that's what really spawned it is they saw the success that other entities were having with it. So I think that was really key, you know, is it demonstrating success and what it could mean to them?



Erin Looney  04:28

Brandon, back to you. I've talked to you a couple of times about this. And each time I've spoken to you, when we talked about some of the key steps to building a successful strategy for this bill. You talked about the steering committee and a cohort focused on the bill and getting them into the process very early on. So can you both talk a little about that?


Brandon Dekker  04:49

A handful of us from the the DBIA western Pacific Region started this steering committee and really the idea was to get together a group We have practitioners and and public owners agencies that really were interested in moving the needle from a legislative standpoint. But more importantly, for advancing progressive design-build, it was just an opportunity to really understand some of the challenges that they were up against and how we as an organization could help meet some of those needs. When our board decided that we were going to move forward, we realized very quickly that we needed to have a pretty good communication plan. And we needed to have not only a steering committee, but we needed to have what we call a cohort, an SP 706 cohort group, and that really was made up of DBIA, western Pacific Region board members. And we did that because we felt like we needed to have teammates on the board that were making decisions in the best interest of the board. As we were moving through the sponsorship and getting the author, Senator Caballero and working with Beau biller who is our consultant from Platinum Advisors, if there were things that needed to be done, whether it be writing letters or going to the state capitol for hearings and testimonies, we use that as an opportunity to sort of coordinate those efforts.


Erin Looney  06:11

We're going to hear from Beau a little later in the episode as a matter of fact, so we'll see what he has to say about that process as well.


Chris Sullivan  06:17

I can't overemphasize the impact the steering committee had had a lot of owners, some had done progressive design-build, some had not. And they are able to share war stories. And it covered things that were broad, like philosophical topics about progressive design, build the origins, you know, what it's how it's supposed to work, and how it has worked for owners, and down into the nitty gritty details. And it not only got your juices flowing, but I think it did invigorate some owners who really haven't had that tool. Because you know, of course, Brandon and I were out there. Yeah, it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, of course, but it's different when you hear it from other owners, and the success that they've had. So I think those were really great to kind of create that groundswell of movement.


Erin Looney  06:59

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Erin Looney  07:33

You put together the steering committee, you got this cohort, you did this, you know this focus group perspective on, you know, what do you want? How do you want it? When do you want it? Get the protest chance going up? It doesn't stop there, obviously, what other steps or tasks? Did you learn along the way are integral to successful state legislation?


Brandon Dekker  07:52

One thing that comes to mind is there's no need to reinvent the wheel. Right? So you want to kind of take a look at what's been successful in the past as far as legislation is concerned and build on that there was a bill that was passed, SB 991. Back in 2022, it had a lot of the important elements that we were looking for, as a board and as an organization. And being able to use that as kind of a framework for our bill, I think was vital. So if there are opportunities to do that, in other regions, I'd definitely suggest that you look into that. The other thing I think that's important is that there's a compromise, right? You don't need to win every battle, but you want to win the war, right? We needed to compromise on a couple of occasions with some organizations that had some questions about our language, Chris and I were on a call with an organization that thought that our bill would restrict them from doing certain things, when in actuality it would allow them to do exactly what they were wanting to do. It just took some education, right. So that organization ended up being a supporter and wrote a strong support letter in favor of SB 706.


Chris Sullivan  09:02

So I'm an attorney and I took high school civics and so I figured I knew how a bill becomes law and all that fun stuff. But turns out it's extremely complex, and you need like a Schoolhouse Rock Video One on One of how that works. I mean, it's grueling, and having a partner who understands those processes and the intricacies of it is crucial right and and I like to think we're pretty smart guys. We know design-build really well and can design and build stuff all day. But you know, we wouldn't have been able to take a bill and go get it made into law without help from Beau from someone who really knows how that process works.


Erin Looney  09:36

This sounds like a good opportunity to learn and reinforce the lesson of if you can't help get out of the way right? You just had somebody who could take those parts that you are thankfully willing to admit that you don't know and run with them. In addition to Beau you also have DBIA national anything that expands design-build authority and promotes design-build done right we are here, western Pacific you are a big region, both into terms of geography and in terms of membership numbers. And now, I'm not saying that gives you an advantage by default, but it does possibly give you a little more space to step back and say, this is doable for us. Still, even with all the resources, you don't do this alone, you can't do it alone. Right. In the next couple of weeks, DBIA national is officially launching two documents that will be helpful for your next bill. And for other upcoming state legislation. There's the state statute report and a model legislation, what value do you see those items having at the region level, you know, at the state level? And more broadly, how do you see a relationship between DBIA national and regions in advocacy efforts like this one,


Brandon Dekker  10:43

we are very fortunate in the western Pacific region to have resources to do what we did, but I don't want other regions to think they can't do the same thing because they can, there's so much opportunity out there national is there every step of the way to support you, however you need. And we work very closely with Richard and Lisa, and, and others, you, Erin and getting the word out there. This document you're talking about is really, really important, because nobody knows all the legislative authorities that are out there. And I think knowing what's out there, and what these various states agencies can and can't do is really important. One of the things that we've looked at collectively as a team is, what's the next phase of our legislative advocacy for the region? You know, we're not just made up of one state, we're made up of four states. So there's a lot of opportunity for us to make even a greater impact in our region. But what the document that you're talking about Erin that national has put out, what will help us understand is, you know, where are the gaps?


Chris Sullivan  11:46

Brandon tell the story, when we were doing our bill that Beau had suggested we use the language from another bill that was 991 that was previously passed, because we knew that everyone had accepted it. And so we modeled it close that there wasn't a lot of pushback on that bill. So we need more successful. So we didn't have to craft the language from beginning we can take that language and modify it to our needs. And that was extremely helpful to get our bill passed. And so the model legislation from national will function the same way for all these other areas and states, if there's something there like this template that you can kind of start and modify from it's extremely helpful. And we had that in our legislation. And so now everyone with this document coming out, we'll have that same sort of cheat sheet,


Erin Looney  12:28

Call it a cheat sheet or call it working smarter. Either way, Brandon and Chris, thank you for talking about the process of getting SB 706 through the applicability of your experience and DBIA nationals role in supporting this type of effort. 


I also spoke with Marianne O'Brien from Smith group about what was in the bill, why such a bill is so important to the industry. And we expanded on the value of DBIA state statute report and the model legislation we just mentioned. The report, by the way is available And the model legislation we'll follow closely behind keep an eye on our social media at DBIA. National. Now, Marianne, let me preface this with anytime we talk about progressive design-build, people pay attention, our conference sessions, or webinars, podcasts, anything that focuses on PDB always makes a great impression. And SB 706 was about California's authority to use PDB in state and local projects. So that kind of just begs the question, right? Why is PDB such a hot button issue? Why is it important to the design and construction industry? Overall,


Marianne O'Brien  13:37

it's perceived as an incredibly fair, innovative, efficient and customizable process. It's fair, because all the parties in the process have a reasonable assurance of payment for the intellectual property delivered and the product delivered. It's innovative because it brings the latest techniques and construction forward into the design process. And it's efficient, because those construction processes come into the design process. So that what's drawn what's agreed to initially really don't have to be reworked later in terms of shop drawings, they can carry forward all the way through because those construction techniques are factored into what's drawn right from the start. And so to take a look at customizable The process allows for the parties to take a detour, if something comes up that's really important and go explore that as part of the process.


Erin Looney  14:41

Okay, so obviously though, nothing is perfect. What we've been talking about so far has been success, success, you know, steps that worked, ideas that worked, the importance of investing in something that works, but can you talk about some of the obstacles Have you encountered while working on SB 706?


Marianne O'Brien  15:03

If I were to summarize it into one, the biggest impediment was the fear of failure. As we were sitting and considering this at the board level, there was a concern that prior legislation had been hampered by concerns from some labor groups. But ultimately, and if we'd have stopped there and given up, you know, there was a good deal of discussion, we would never have been able to achieve success. So really, it was, if we don't try, how will we know that this impediment still exists, or it exists in the same way, or for the same reasons. And so we went ahead and move forward.


Erin Looney  15:48

The best part of successful and let's be real, even on successful legislative efforts, is being able to do sort of that hands on to learn that type of thing. Going through the process allows you to see it and anticipate it next time. And to find out what works, what doesn't work to get a bill passed, or in some cases, like a Virginia bill that's looking to prohibit the use of design-build to get it squashed? What are a couple of the big lessons you learned? And how do you recommend other regions apply such lessons going forward? Well,


Marianne O'Brien  16:20

I think the biggest lesson learned is to have a guide, whether or not it's you know, obviously, we would advise a professional advisor. But if a region can't afford a professional advisor, talk to somebody who's gotten a bill through in recent history, and develop a cohort, like Brandon, and Chris talked about, to really help understand the challenges, the advantages, and be able to articulate those clearly and effectively when the time comes to speak, to support that potential bill being passed. And know the individuals, there may be members of the constituency that know a specific senator or legislator and try and do pre work with them ahead of time to know what their concerns and considerations are, because we did do that. And we did have that guide to do that. So I think those were some really important things that would apply, no matter what state is trying to achieve some legislation relative to design-build, or more specifically, progressive design-build.



Erin Looney  17:45

In our December episode, DBIA, CEO and executive director Lisa Washington talked about the importance of a state legislation playbook being scalable, enter the state statute report and model legislation, right. And as Chris mentioned, building scalable resources avoids losing valuable time having to start over every time there's a new bill to advance. So the goal is for these resources and your experience in California to be helpful in any state that's working on design-build legislation. But all regions, all states are not created equal. We keep saying that in this episode, and it's that important. Can you talk a little about that scalability with the playbook that Western Pacific has put together and the resources from national and how that might be useful to let's say, Iowa, California


Marianne O'Brien  18:34

is one of the most complicated states. That's why this was such a challenge. We have charter cities, for example. So it's not like, we have one law that will sweep across the state and create broad legislation that allows applicability across the state, charter cities can do whatever they want. And that may be one of our next steps as a board. So while Iowa doesn't have it, for instance, I wouldn't necessarily say it's more complex there because they don't have it, it might be maybe a more simple approach. That could be a more sweeping effort, it might take one bill that gives broad base legislative authority to the state, the processes would still be the same, because every state government at a certain level with a house in the Senate is set up in a similar fashion and it would take the same kind of effort to get it through. So it's helpful to know what legislation does exist, what needs to be overcome, and this is where national comes in. So I think it is very scalable, even if a state hasn't started in there too, without design-build legislation or authority.


Erin Looney  19:55

design-build authority varies widely in states so legislative efforts are of course not one size fits all. But that's why DBIA has updated the state statute report and created model legislation. Having a starting point, guidance and reference and access to regions that have succeeded before makes the daunting task of taking on state legislation much more manageable for regions that want to advance design-build in their own states. As every guest today has mentioned, another key factor is having an advisor who knows the game so to speak, Marianne, just now Brandon and Chris earlier, all talked about Beau biller from Platinum advisors, who was their guide throughout not only SB 706, but many other bills over the years. I asked Beau to demystify his apparent superpowers and offer some words of wisdom. Hi, Beau. First, let's talk broadly about your work with DBIA is legislative efforts. This isn't your first design-build bill. And I will say everyone else we've spoken to just gushed about the work that you did that made it a whole lot easier to get through this process. But what we didn't touch on yet was exactly what your role was, and how you came into their efforts with SB 706.


Beau Biller  21:08

So I've been with design-build Institute of America western Pacific region, I think if I were to round up to say about 15 years, in the early days, we were just getting designed build, socialized in the legislature overcame some major obstacles with labor, and others that were not a big fan. Now today, I would say, you know, 1012 years later, design-build is commonplace. It's a common, efficient method for procurement. And everyone thinks it's a good thing. Getting to the next step of progressive design-build took some time required that we reach out to the various stakeholders of the care about the issue. So when we go to meet with the legislature, the policymakers, they're generally suspicious if it's on behalf of a corporation, or in this case, a builders and contractors, they think that perhaps we're trying to do something to gain an advantage. But to the credit of the Western Pacific region, in the association, they've embraced the owner side of the membership equation, giving us credibility with those that are charged by way of election, whether it's a municipality, a city, a county, a special district, they have a duty to make good decisions, when they spend billions of dollars to spend that money wisely, that helped us get insecure, our author, Senator Caballero, the chair of the committee, which would receive this bill, to put her name on it and be the lead author of the bill along with co authors from both houses, both parties. And that's what led us down the path. Starting off on a good foot, Brandon


Erin Looney  22:56

and Marianne and Chris, all said separately from one another, that having you on the team from day one is vital. So when someone comes to you and to platinum advisors and says, we need your help, what information do you expect them to have? Having


Beau Biller  23:12

somebody with some historical knowledge in the space can't be overlooked? I mean, there's terms of art, and business practices, which those within your association, know firsthand. And it's their business, it's what they do every day, you can't really expect a lobbyist to know this stuff right off the bat. If you were coming in cold, I would have to spend a lot of time understanding a lot of the fine points of the business. And you know who the real players are. And so having the history was helpful. But if you're just coming in to start from scratch, save yourself some time and go with somebody that's got some knowledge in the space, because what comes with that is the relationships within the legislature that are going to be important when you go to get a committee analysis. When you go to lobby members for votes, they already know you they know that you're in this space. 


Erin Looney  24:10

Can you give us some additional tips on how states that are different sizes? Maybe different levels of resources, different levels of design-build authority? How can they go about finding the right advisor for their needs? The easy answer is what you were just talking about, go to someone who knows this. If that isn't readily available, what are some tips to find the right person that's


Beau Biller  24:32

hard to compare with some other states just the size and resources that they may have within their legislature, but I almost guarantee you no matter where you're at, there's somebody that comes from a construction background. And I know for certain many will have members that get elected to the higher offices that come from a city or a county or some form of government, which may have already had experience in the day may leave Due to the person that might be best to help shepherd, a new bill through the process, usually, you know, within the association, they may have people that have the experience or some knowledge of government. One of the things I asked our folks right at the beginning, was okay, we're gonna head down this path, who on the call who amongst the DBIA, western Pacific region, has an existing relationship with a lawmaker, there's all sorts of different ways where there may be a personal relationship that you can translate into the working relationship you need at the legislature, and depending on the size of the state, some have very little staff. And you're gonna rely on the members and their relationships with other members to push an initiative forward.


Erin Looney  25:46

So let's consider a hypothetical. Up until now, in this episode, we've really focused primarily on successful legislative efforts. But not every bill you want passed as passed. And not every bill you want squashed, disappears the way you want it to after the fact, if things don't go the way everyone has planned, what do you tell the team that has worked so hard with you, and how does your role change?


Beau Biller  26:12

I think that's a great question, which I would tell a story about my early days with DBIA, we were heading down the path of seeking design-build authorization for cities, counties, special districts, in the very early days, even before my time as your contract lobbyist. There was a handful of authorizations. And I think school districts might have been first. But there was great resistance from the committee staff. And, you know, I had to explain to the association, you know, we're not going to get a bill this year with broad authority, we have to work on the committee consultant and some of the members and educate them and build the coalition within the association. The following year, legislation was introduced and passed, which granted statewide authority for cities and counties and special districts and that set out what we call the boiler plate or the template for design-build. Sometimes you gotta lay a foundation and create great studies, create the reports, the background, and show the evidence.


Erin Looney  27:20

Beau thank you again, for sitting with me. I knew we needed to get your perspective after hearing how important you were through the process. I think I can safely say the WP er team does not believe they could have pulled off SB 706. Without your help. DBIA is model legislation does describe the role of an advisor like you so states can follow that guidance and hopefully have their own boat.


Beau Biller  27:39

This whole effort went about as textbook as you can do it, we had a great author, we had an active organized, frequent meetings with what we called the cohort and the steering committee through the association. We met the challenges when faced with some opposition were able to overcome them. And in the end, it was a perfect storm of all those ingredients that you would want. And now we just have to prove it out. Senator Caballero received her plaque. We had Brandon and bedding lane and Maryann came to town. And they were acknowledged by that day, the presiding officer, Senator kabhi arrow for all their efforts. So these kinds of things, not only does it good for the policy, but it's good to extend and expand on our reach within the legislature so that when another matter comes up, it might not be our idea. It might be somebody else's, but they're going to ask us what we think about it, because we've further branded our space as the leader in the design-build space, not to mention the fact that we got our bill signed by the governor.


Erin Looney  28:58

SB 706, was signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom on October 8 of last year expanding authority for the State Director of General Services to use progressive design-build procurement and capital projects. In a year full of legislative successes at the state level, though SB 706 was only one story, and 2024 promises to bring even more, especially with new resources from DBIA to support those efforts. The state statute report is available now and the model legislation is coming soon. Both to the DBIA Thank you to Brandon Decker, Chris Sullivan. Marianne O'Brien and Beau biller for joining us. If you want to hear more of what they had to say follow the podcast for design-build delivers many episodes featuring in depth takes on these conversations. Thank you as well to Freddie for always making this show sound great. And of course, thank you to us CAD for their continued sponsorship. The design-build delivers podcast Learn more at us

A Labor of Love: Making SB 706 a Reality
How a Steering Committee and an SB 706 Cohort Shaped the Bill
Schoolhouse Rock 101: How an Advisor Can Change the Game
Updated State Statute Report and Model Legislation as Cheat Sheets for State Legislation
What’s the Deal with PDB?
Turning Obstacles into Successes
Scaling the Playbook: How to Apply WPR’s Experience in Other States
Who is this Advisor Person Anyway? Beau Biller on His Role with DBIA
Finding Your Own Beau: How to Choose the Right Advisor for State Legislation
Win or Lose, What Comes Next?