2011-04-13

A Bad Bill in Florida's Senate - SB 0276

While in general I do not typically weigh-in in-depth on political issues, I feel that an issue has arisen that is both one in which I have more than sufficient experience and is an important enough issue with disconcerting far-reaching ramifications that I am compelled to speak.

In the interests of full disclosure and qualification, while I am not a Professional Engineer, Surveyor, or Architect I am currently employed by an AEC firm and have worked in IT within the construction industry for over 20-years.

Let me be perfectly clear here.  The opinions expressed here are strictly my own and may not reflect those of my employer.  I don't know, as they weren't consulted on the matter.

The Florida Senate has a bill on its Committee on Education Pre-K - 12  agenda , SB 0276 -Relating to Procurement of Professional Services , which is a patently bad bill. The bill is sponsored by Senator Bennett, and is  designed to change the standard by which professional consultants including Professional Engineers, Surveyors, and Architects are selected for government work, ostensibly to reduce government costs.  While I applaud the end-goal, I believe that the bill is quite short sighted.  Especially when one considers that the design fees are typically less than 20% of construction costs.

Since 1972, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the law in 47 of 50 states and in Florida our Consultants’ Competitive Negotiations Act (CCNA – FS287.055) mirrors the federal rules in The Brooks Act (Public Law 92-582, 40 U.S.C. 1101 et. seq. and Federal Acquisition Regulations, subpart 36.6).  This standard ensures that professionals, whose decisions directly impact the public good and safety such as Engineers, Surveyors, and Architects are selected for projects through a public selection process based on their qualifications, experience, and measurable past performance.  Once selected, a fee proposal and negotiation is undertaken to ensure that the state is paying only reasonable and customary fees for the work performed.  If a fair contract cannot be reached with the selected firm, the next-highest ranking firm may then be selected.

This CCNA principle, that government agencies select a professional services consulting firm for specific projects based on qualifications rather than on a “lowest bid” basis, is designed to protect the health and safety of the public and ensures the procurement process for these specific professional services are based on qualifications, competence, and track record.

CCNA is PROVEN: Public agencies that use Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) to procure professional A/E services are better able to control construction costs and achieve a consistently high degree of project satisfaction than those using other procurement methods, according to a two-year study led by Paul S. Chinowsky, PhD of the University of Colorado and Gordon A. Kingsley, PhD of Georgia Tech.  There are no competing or conflicting studies!

CCNA and QBS:
  • Lowers Risk
  • Encourages Innovation
  • Ensures cost-effectiveness and competitiveness
  • Results in better projects by avoiding scoping errors and bid tricks, and meeting the needs of multiple stake-holders.
  • Keeps jobs in Florida.  If cost is the sole driver, then all work functions will be shipped overseas without direct Florida licensed professional supervision.


Again, this is a BAD BILL at its core and no amendments will fix it.

In these difficult times, all government agencies are facing a staggering infrastructure deficit.  A system that is driven by the cheapest solution will produce lower quality results.

Moving to a “lowest-bid” for design work will lead to poorer solutions by less qualified “professionals” which will be far more expensive to construct, will increase the public’s risk, both personal and financial, and will indirectly incentivize the outsourcing of this work to “cheaper” countries in order cut-costs at all cost.

As a 3rd generation Floridian (raising a fourth generation), a tax-payer, and one who is very familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the construction industry, I ask that you contact your legislator to oppose this penny-wise pound-foolish bill, SB 0276.

The Committee:

Name
District   
Phone
Steven R. Wise (Chair)
(R)
5
(850) 487-5027
Larcenia J. Bullard (Vice Chair)
(D)
39
(850) 487-5127
JD Alexander
(R)
17
(850) 487-5044
Lizbeth Benacquisto
(R)
27
(850) 487-5356
Bill Montford
(D)
6

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