Monday, March 21, 2011

Advocacy Update: Week 9

David Lancaster, Hon. AIA
Senior Director of Advocacy

In the week after approximately 1,500 House bills were filed to be within the 60-day deadline, along with another 700 in the Senate, we did a lot of slogging through the glut that occurs trying to fit 10 pounds of stuff into a five-pound bag.

In addition, we covered the Capitol to lobby on high performance building standards legislation (HBs 51 and 775) and ways to reduce liability and defense cost exposure (SB 361), both of which were successful. HB 51 was favorably reported by a unanimous vote of the State Affairs committee and SB 361 passed the Senate 24-7.

We visited a number of offices 1) about the “package” of engineer-driven bills that could adversely affect the practice of architecture, 2) told the sponsor of a bill (HB 2658) that would repeal the Architectural Barriers law that we are opposed to such a draconian proposal, and 3) successfully lobbied a State Representative to stop further consideration of a bill (HB 3676) that would eliminate Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) as the method for selecting design professionals for public projects.

Other anti-QBS language showed up in companion bills related to higher education funding (SB 5 and HB 3517), and we visited both bill sponsors to let them know how strongly we oppose any attempt to exempt institutions of higher education from the QBS law. Look for a Legislative Alert, however, to contact representatives and senators in the event our initial visits don’t produce immediate positive results. (The norm is that compromises are proposed or considered first…but this is an issue for which there can be no compromise, there is no middle ground.)

The week of March 21 will see a number of bills set for hearing, including SB 1048 (up in the Economic Development committee on Wednesday), many of which could impact the availability of public projects being funded over the next biennium. That, and a recently created Senate task force charged with finding approximately $5 billion in non-tax revenues to supplement critical state programs like education and health-human services, could have tremendous impact on business opportunities for Texas architects. We’ll be paying particular attention to the new task force to see if “non-tax” includes “non-fee” revenues, or if taxes and fees are viewed differently.

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