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DBIA Saves Design-Build in Louisiana

by Geoff Corey | June 17, 2013

On the morning of April 26th, DBIA’s Director of State and Local Legislative Affairs, Richard Thomas, noticed that a usually non-controversial bill (HB 559) to extend design-build authority for New Orleans’ schools was pulled from the floor after not receiving enough votes to pass.  The bill’s sponsor, Representative Jared Brossett, had re-scheduled debate for a few days later while he tried to convince a few more Senators to support it.  Meanwhile, DBIA’s advocacy team decided to hold a meeting to strategize on what actions we could take to pass the bill.
A little background is in order, in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many of New Orleans’ flood control systems, roads, bridges, and schools were destroyed or severely damaged.  Design-build authority allowed architects, engineers, and contractors to begin rebuilding this critical infrastructure much faster than some other states could have.  This authority not only rebuilt the city, it helped people rebuild their lives.  Louisiana’s design-build laws, however, have sunsets that allow them to expire unless they are extended by the legislature.  The pulled bill, HB 559, would have provided this extension.
To get it back in play, DBIA sent research and talking points to Representative Brossett, as well as detailed examples of New Orleans repairs that were done using design-build, such as the Inner Harbor Surge Protection Gate.  He would go on to use some of this information in his floor speech a few days later.  We also sent blast emails to our members and contacts in Louisiana urging them to contact their representatives about HB 559. When some told us we were the only group organizing Louisianans around the issue, Richard decided to forward the email to his contacts in the Governor’s office.
Finally, on the night of April 29th, the House debated the bill and the opposition became nearly silent. Their offices had been flooded with calls from our supporters, Representative Brossett’s arguments were strong, and the Governor’s office had intervened.  The House voted 67 – 23 to continue using design-build in New Orleans’ schools, sending a strong message of support to the State Senate.
At this point, our advocacy efforts had generated so much enthusiasm that the Senate decided to amend the bill, adding extensions to New Orleans’ Sewerage and Water Boards ability to use design-build too. The additions were an unexpected outcome of our campaign, and the House agreed to them so quickly we barely had time to register what had happened.
After all the worrying, blast emails, and last-minute meetings, we could finally celebrate on June 17 when the Governor signed the bill into law. This successful effort was a resounding victory for DBIA, and design-build, but mostly for the residents of New Orleans, who will continue to have vital repairs completed using the innovative and successful design-build method.

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