Friday, April 15, 2011

Advocacy Update

David Lancaster
TSA Senior Manager of Advocacy

This was a GREAT week for TSA’s Advocacy efforts! We had two critical bills move out of their respective House committees (one even recommended for the Local & Consent Calendar), and since both were consensus committee substitutes, in other words, they’re now “agreed” bills, their chance of final passage is really good.

CSHB 2284
The acronym “CSHB” stands for Committee Substitute for House Bill. The substitute is a complete re-write of the Filed version. It’s the “Peace Accord” bill that we hope—and expect—will end over 20 years of professional overlap disputes between architects and engineers. Assuming this one stays on track, and the good news is that this is the one that was sent to Local & Consent, the calendar reserved for less controversial or uncontested bills, it will eliminate the need for any further consideration of seven other bills that had your Society Advocates alarmed. Again, if it stays on a “consensus track,’ it should be in the Senate…where a friendly sponsor is waiting to keep it rolling smoothly…before the end of April!

CSHB 628
The Alternative Project Delivery consolidation bill we have jointly sponsored with the Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors and Texas Council of Engineering Companies each session since 2005 is moving again. As in two previous sessions when it passed both chambers only to be vetoed by the Governor, the timing is good and the revised language has no visible opposition. In the meantime, we’ve already started checking with Perry’s office to make sure it won’t get vetoed this time if/when it gets to his desk.

Two bills dealing with the Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS) had our attention this week: HB 1859, which would grant an exemption to any structure or facility owned by a religious entity, was reported favorably from committee; and, HB 2658, which would eliminate the state Architectural Barriers law and rely solely on the ADA, will be modified to propose an interim study of TAS and how it’s currently administered by TDLR…with the potential that it could be moved to TBAE later. 

The Codes & Standards committee suggested we oppose HB 1859 because of the precedent it would set in granting an exemption based on who owns a project, not the human use or occupancy purpose it serves. Historically, TSA has opposed broad exemptions from either building codes or historic preservation statutes being granted to churches.

HB 2010, companion to SB 361, the “Indemnification Protection” bill, had its first hearing this week, and left as pending business. Our hope is that something, preferably the Senate version, will get kicked out within the next two weeks, with ample time to be scheduled for floor debate before mid-May.

HB 51, the High Performance Building Standards bill, still awaits a set by the Calendars committee for required second and third reading approvals on the House floor, but “the other green” bills, three related to business practices (i.e., sovereign immunity, Public-Private Partnerships and limiting public entities’ ability to perform services available from the private sector) all moved out of committee successfully. None are “sure things,” but there’s hope and we’re working them, both to improve the language in them as well as to improve their chances.

While it wasn’t directly related to QBS, there was an interesting debate this morning on the House floor between proponents of “best value” v. “low bid/price.” While it was focused on the Dept. of Information Resources…computer and information system commodities…it was a wake-up call that we aren’t out of those woods altogether yet.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS: It’s getting “testier” by the week, if not the day, around the Capitol. We must maintain progress getting our bills passed, hopefully within the next four weeks, because after that budget negotiations and redistricting will sweep the stage. While it may be “edgy,” it’s fascinating…it’s fun…and it’s your future. Please stay tuned and respond immediately to any Legislative Alerts you get. Timing is to politics what location is to real estate.

1 comment:

Betsy del Monte said...

It is really gratifying to see the progress made with some of these issues! What a relief it will be if the "Peace Accord" goes through...we can go back to trying to work WITH engineers!
Thanks to you, David, and to Yvonne, as well as Wade and Cathy, our lobbyists. And especially thanks to Dan Hart for hammering it out with the engineers!