Summary of the 2018 General Assembly Session
The Joint Legislative Committee (JLC) vetted approximately 3,000 total bills to extract the relevant ones to our profession. The majority of the bills introduced that would have a significant impact on our profession were in procurement. We successfully defeated SB 188 which provides that for competitive negotiation of professional services, a public body may conduct negotiations simultaneously with the top two ranked offerors. In addition, HB 97 allows for single or term contracts for professional services without requiring competitive negotiation, provided the aggregate or the sum of all phases is not expected to exceed $80,000. This change increased the limit in current law by $20,000.
The following depicts the number of bills of interest to the JLC that were introduced, by topic, but did not succeed in 2018:
• Procurement & SWaM: 24
• Building Code/Energy/Resiliency: 5
• Regulatory Reduction: 4
• Design Methodologies: 3
• Tax Reform: 2
• Historic Buildings: 2
• Zoning: 1
House Select Committee on School Safety
In light of the increase of school shootings, the Virginia General Assembly formed a Select Committee on School Safety. This is the first select committee formed in the House in 155 years. The committee consisted of 22 members charged with completing its work by November 15 to include recommendations for the 2019 General Assembly.
The Select Committee was divided into three subcommittees: Student Behavior and Intervention; Prevention and Response, and Infrastructure and Security. Any recommendations regarding the design of schools would likely originate from the Infrastructure and Security subcommittee. The goal of AIA Virginia was to insert the voice of the architect and be a resource to that respective subcommittee as it undertook its work.
Our legislators had not considered inviting architects to the conversation.
As such, our objectives were as follows:
1) Find a legislator that would advocate for architects to join the conversation with the appropriate subcommittee
2) Upon receiving a seat at the table, make it clear that we want to help them achieve their goals
3) Clearly state the intent is to be a facilitator in this work and be a sounding board to this subcommittee’s ideas, thoughts, and recommendations
4) As a byproduct of this experience, hope that the interaction with our organization reinforces the importance of the role of the architect in every community
AIA Virginia was invited by the Infrastructure and Security subcommittee to give a presentation on the following key points: 1) Project Process 2) Historical Trends in School Design 3) Current Trends in School Design 4) New Construction vs. Renovation 5) What are Other States Doing?
The Committee, in its entirety, met in November and provided its priority recommendations. AIA Virginia is pleased to report that our recommendations were utilized!
A full list of the Select Committee’s priorities can be accessed here.
Disaster Assistance Relief
AIA Virginia has reinvigorated its Memorandum of Understanding with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Two Safety Assessment Program (SAP) trainings were held this year resulting in the national credentialing of 70 architects, engineers, and building officials. This credential administered by California’s Office of Emergency Services allow for industry professionals to perform building assessments after a natural disaster as second-responders. This program is the official AIA all-hazards post-disaster training. We, as design professionals, are now viewed by the Commonwealth of Virginia as instrumental resources in helping restore communities after these devastating events. AIA Virginia looks to host additional training opportunities in 2019.
Closing the Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) Loophole in the Virginia Public Procurement Act (VPPA)
Virginia has a relatively strong QBS process for procuring professional services and the central procuring agency in the state, the Department of General Services, continues to embrace its use. There are exceptions within the VPPA that allow a local government to exempt itself if it has adopted their own procurement procedures through an ordinance. In fact, approximately 50% of local governments have chosen this approach. Though this exemption is allowed, there are certain criteria that local governments may not exempt out of such as the requirements around ethics, conflicts of interest, and the use of QBS in the procurement of professional services.
This year, our industry was made aware of what we believe, through careful research, was a drafting error in a 2013 procurement bill that had the intent of “cleaning up” the extensive VPPA. The result of the drafting error is an erroneous cross-reference in the statute that no longer requires local governments to use QBS in its procurement of professional services. This was brought to the attention of AIA Virginia and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia (ACEC) when a local government issued a Requests for Proposals (RFP) requiring firms to submit its price with its qualifications. When approached by our industry organizations, the legal counsel for the respective local government presented its logic successfully within the confines of the existing law as it stands today.
It was at this point, AIA Virginia and ACEC decided to act swiftly and immediately. We were confident that if other local governments were made aware of this language in the VPPA, there was a high-risk that we would see more RFP’s written in this way.
Our lobbying approach was two-fold:
Educational Outreach Efforts: In partnership with ACEC and Williams Mullen (our lobbyists), we undertook “in district” one-on-one outreach meetings with key members of the General Assembly who serve in a leadership position or on the key committees (House and Senate General Laws). Due to the significant turnover, particularly within the House, the one-on-one meetings was our opportunity to educate legislators (many for the first time) on the importance of QBS. In addition, we shared with these individuals that we were planning to introduce legislation in the 2019 General Assembly to correct the drafting error in the VPPA. We held approximately two dozen of these meetings around the Commonwealth and attended various fundraisers. Thank you to the members who joined me on these visits.
Proposing New Legislation: House Majority Leader, Delegate Todd Gilbert, has agreed to be the Chief Patron of our bill which corrects the drafting error. Gaining his support in this request is instrumental since he carried the original procurement bill where the drafting error was made. Our proposed bill sounds straightforward and it is. However, it does not mean that opposition will not occur. We have worked extensively out of session with legislators and other pertinent stakeholders in an attempt to limit opposition. Having this bill pass will ensure that there is a uniform way to procure professional services around the Commonwealth based on qualifications.
Corey Clayborne, Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia, email@example.com