Saturday, March 5, 2011

Advocacy Update: Week 7

David Lancaster, Hon. AIA
TSA Senior Director of Advocacy

The current major issues of legislative focus are all “red meat” topics like abortion, voter ID, and immigration reform. They are extremely partisan, and there are two theories of how dealing with such topics now will ultimately affect the session:

1. They will either satisfy the needs of legislators for voting on hot-button issues (thought to be especially important to recently elected, Tea Party-backed members), thus freeing them to be more reasonable on more critical issues—especially the budget—that are to follow; OR

2. They will create complete, not-to-be-healed acrimony and split the House so badly that nothing will get done the rest of the session, and lead to multiple Special Sessions.

One particular interesting thing that caught my attention this past week, however, is Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville), a leading conservative Republican, recently said that the state will need to spend most of the Rainy Day Fund this session to deal responsibly with the budget shortfall and the Legislature will need to raise taxes, not just to generate more revenue, but to provide more equity on service taxes, which I’ll paraphrase as “cutting grass vs. cutting hair.” His example, which stayed away from taxing professional services (I should mention, coincidentally, that he is a physician), was to say the company that he has contracted to maintain his lawn collects sales tax for that service while the woman who cuts his hair doesn’t.

So what does this have to do with you or your practice? Not that much, although when someone with the conservative Republican props like Senator Deuell says we need to look at taxes, especially taxes on services, we all need to pay extra attention. Here are some of the bills or specific activities of impact/interest to architects and architecture that staff and lobbyists were busy with this week—

HB 51—High Performance Standards for K-12 facilities….had a State Affairs committee hearing on Wednesday. We were there in support and continue to assist actively as requested.

HB 628—Alternative Project Delivery and Public Contracting Procurement…was heard Thursday by the Government Reform committee. Again, we were there in active support because it’s one of our priority initiatives, along with High Performance Building bills.

HB 362 and 450—Regulation of Solar Panels by Home-Owner Associations…had their first Business & Industry committee review. Everyone seems to love the concept of solar energy and energy conservation, but legislators are sensitive to anything “ugly” that would reduce residential or community property values. SB 238 enjoyed a similar reaction with the Intergovernmental Relations committee across the rotunda on Wednesday.

HB 611—Provision of certain professional services…would limit public entities from providing design and construction services except on projects they own or have a shared interest ion. We offered the bill’s author an amendment for some “Except project management” language that might be misinterpreted or, worse, misused by a public entity looking for non-tax revenue.

Some interesting bills that were filed this week include—

HB1618—a Sunset Review bill…but one that appears to be a possible vessel for legislative “mischief”—if someone wanted to try something sneaky. At the least, one can’t help but read this as anything but a shot at one agency in particular, the Board of Architectural Examiners.

HB1876—Fire sprinklers in 1-2 family residences, the ubiquitous question of balance between safety-financial-maintenance liability concerns.

SB 1048—Public-Private Partnerships…viewed as a potential (and based on the current budget situation, an increasingly popular) source for funding capital projects. This large, complex bill was reported yesterday and will take time to digest, and the Government Affairs Steering Committee knows it must carefully consider a multitude of facets if we are to avoid potential unintended consequences.

And, finally, negotiations on the A/E issue are progressing, with our next meeting likely to be Monday. The situation is extremely fluid…so stayed tuned on a daily basis.

No comments: