Design-Build Delivers

JAN '24 BONUS CONTENT 1: Tackling State Design-Build Legislation with Brandon Dekker and Chris Sullivan

February 01, 2024 DBIA
Design-Build Delivers
JAN '24 BONUS CONTENT 1: Tackling State Design-Build Legislation with Brandon Dekker and Chris Sullivan
Show Notes Transcript

Sometimes, our chats with podcast guests go long, dive into some deep stuff or – every so often – get a little weird. The topics we discuss are also multifaceted and can only go so far in a single episode, so we’re introducing a new way to bring you some of the better content that ends up on the cutting room floor. 

In the January episode titled “Tackling State Design-Build Legislation: California’s PDB Bill as a Starting Point,” we spoke with Brandon Dekker (Cannon Design), Chris Sullivan (Sundt Construction), Marianne O’Brien (SmithGroup) and Beau Biller (Platinum Advisors) regarding SB 706 in California. While we've previously covered this 2023 bill's expansion of PDB authority, the podcast episode went further into understanding how their successful efforts in the DBIA-Western Pacific Region could serve as a blueprint for success nationwide. The episode also unveiled the updated State Statute Report and generated anticipation for the upcoming release of DBIA’s Model Legislation.

Regrettably, we couldn't fit all the inside baseball from Dekker and Sullivan's time in the episode. Enter Bonus Content, where this extended interview with Dekker and Sullivan sheds more light on their specific contributions to steering SB 706 across the finish line.

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Erin Looney  00:09

Welcome to the first ever Design-Build Delivers podcast bonus content. Sometimes, our chats with guests go long dive into some deep stuff or every so often just get a little weird. The topics we discussed are also multifaceted and can only go so far in a single episode. So we're introducing bonus content minisodes, so we can bring you some of the better material that ends up on the cutting room floor the first time around. Now we may or may not have bonus content from episode to episode, but when we do, you are designed Bill delivers podcast listeners will be the first to know in January, we talked to Cannon Design’s Brandon Dekker and Sundt Construction’s Chris Sullivan about SB 706. In California, a bill passed last year that expanded the use of progressive design-build for state and local agencies. In the episode, Brandon and Chris shared a lot of great information. But there were still some ins and outs, dirty details and a few tips we didn't get to. I am Erin Looney, and again, welcome to the first ever Design-Build Delivers podcast bonus content brought to you buy us CAD.


Erin Looney  01:22

We've published a couple posts on the design-build delivery blog recently about SB 706. Throughout the fall in California and how DBIA western Pacific was instrumental in its passing, I'm 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  02:03

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. You know, that's, that's in our in our mission and our vision, as a region. A big part of that as advocacy and being able to advance design-build, but also, more importantly, advanced progressive design, build delivery. 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. And really, nobody is sort of stepping up. And so we felt as as the executive committee and a board that we needed to take the first step in order to do it. So collectively, as a team, what we decided to do was go ahead and sponsor our own bill. And so it took a lot of coordination, a lot of discussions amongst the board and the executive committee to reach a consensus. But at the end of the day, we did and 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 weren't able 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. And so we felt like, as a team, we wanted to give them that authority. And so that's really kind of the spark that spurred on our journey.


Chris Sullivan  03:50

What's important is that it wasn't even from my perspective of DBIA pushing something as far as responding to a need that counties had, right. I mean, they wanted this, and we were able to work with them to deliver it. So I think that was a really a key part. And working together with them was such a major aspect of it. Because you know, we love design-build, and we're promoting them, but they recognized the need on their site. And that's really how the bill was able to come to be.


Erin Looney  04:17

Now Chris, you said we love design-build? And of course we do. Luckily, it sounds like California is agencies agree with us. For the most part, it was just a matter of figuring out and taking the right steps without extra red tape, right? Anybody who's worked with or for a state government knows what that can be like?


Chris Sullivan  04:36

Well, there's other entities in California that are allowed to use progressive design-build higher ed have been using it for a long time. So the you know, the footprints were there already. And so when you have these counties, they're talking to counterparts across these aisles. I think they recognize Wow, 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 already. 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  05:10

Brandon, back to you. I've talked to you a couple times about this. And each time I've spoken to you, when we talk 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  05:32

It really kind of started back about three years ago, were kind of as a grassroots effort. We, 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 of 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 once a month to get together talk about their needs, 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 we then kind of fast forward when our board decided that we were going to move forward and advanced this, the sponsorship of the bill and approve the investment that it was going to take in order to do that, 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 based on what we had all agreed upon and approved. As we were moving through the sponsorship and getting the author, Senator coffee arrow and working with Beau biller who was our consultant from Platinum advisors. And really, we had those calls once a week, 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  07:23

We're going to hear from bow 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  07:29

I can't overemphasize the impact the steering committee had. And in the beginning, those meetings were really great to have 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. It was a broad spectrum of discussion on all things progressive design, build, and it not only got your juices flowing, but I think it did invigorate some Owners who really haven't had that tool, and I'm really sold them on it, hearing some of the stories from other Owners. Because you know, of course, Brian 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 guys to kind of create that groundswell of movement. Because once you have those big Owners behind it, it makes life a lot easier, right? Because there's a lot of political pressure that you can exert once they really want it and believe in it.


Brandon Dekker  08:27

Chris brings up a great point, because I remember when we were first starting to write the bill language, we were bouncing ideas off of that steering committee throughout that whole process, as far as you know, numbers of projects, limitations, those kinds of things, and just making sure that we were making the right moves in the best interest of those Owners and what they were wanting to achieve, along with what our board wanted to achieve and actually sponsoring the bill. So having those experts at the table to help guide us along the way was was really helpful.


Chris Sullivan  09:03

The different counties had interpreted the existing design-build language, the bill that existed to allow them to do progressive and other counties didn't. And that's based on internal counsel. So when we were crafting the language, we got to be able to, you know, hey, LA County, does this language work for you guys? Are you interpreting this the way we all are to allow you to do it? So we had real practical hands on? Yeah, that's gonna work so we can make sure the bill fits for everyone and there's no misinterpretations. And it actually does give you authority that we were hoping for.


Brandon Dekker  09:33

What we found was when we when we went out for the bill sponsorship, and we were looking at who the appropriate author would be, in getting the legislation in support of our bill, we were able to leverage some of those networks of those individuals on that steering committee and on the cohort, quite frankly, to reach out to the local legislators that they knew that they'd been working with in order to educate them on The bill so that that's another part of it, too. We had this large network of folks that could really use their relationships with key legislators to help us with this effort.


Erin Looney  10:10

It's a good thing, you didn't get all these people together. And they said, we don't really want to do this at all, because that would have been Intel, you wouldn't want to you. But thankfully, that didn't happen. And 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? 


Erin Looney  10:40

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. And one of the things I think that Beau did that I think was a stroke of genius was to really leverage, 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, because anything can happen. You never know when somebody is going to come out of the woodwork and oppose your bill or raise questions about your bill. And we had that happen. And I think that through the guidance of Beau, and the guidance of the cohort, we were able to navigate through those waters successfully. 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. You just got to be flexible.


Chris Sullivan  12:22

And you talked about Beau, and we'll talk about him later. But he was critical, right? I mean, he's a lobbyist, and he knows the ins and outs of Sacramento. 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  13:03

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. Because I imagine if you had gone through this without Beau, it would have been a completely different process, and a completely different outcome. Now, in addition to bow, you also have DBIA national, we are here to support regional efforts to pass legislation, anything that expands design, build authority and promotes design-build done, right, we are here, you know, western Pacific, you are a big region, both in 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. So 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? Yes,


Brandon Dekker  14:23

we are very fortunate in the western Pacific region to have resources to do what we did, but I don't want other other regions that think they can't do the same thing because they can. There's so much opportunity out there. And if you put your mind to it, you can absolutely do it. This could not have been done by a single individual person. It was a total complete team win for the region. The one thing that I found was with the connectivity with national is that 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, I remember multiple times, I'm reaching out to Richard to update him on progress. And he would always let us know that he's there to support us, however we need. So I think that connectivity back to national and bringing them into the inner circle of what we're doing was really important. You know, we invited Richard to attend our cohort meetings and steering committee meetings as well, just so he could kind of get a look into what we were talking about, and offer up suggestions on how to circumvent certain situations. So 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 and 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 is put out, what will help us understand is, you know, where are the gaps,


Chris Sullivan  16:16

Brandon told 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 closed, 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 could 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 you want to do the same thing, it's not like you have to start making up what it should be from scratch, the work is there and you can take it and modify it to your region into into those specific needs, whether it's for a specific wastewater or building, you know, vertical construction, whatever it may be. It's a starting point. It's like when you stare at a blank canvas is that first stroke is always the hardest one, right? But 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 will have that same sort of cheat sheet.


Erin Looney  17:23

Look for more Design-Build Delivers bonus content from the January episode and throughout the year by following us on social media at DBIA. National and subscribing to our podcast on the app of your choosing. Thanks to us CAD for sponsoring the Design-Build Delivers podcast, Learn more at us