Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Advocacy Update: Week 15

David Lancaster
TSA Senior Manager of Advocacy

As I write this, things are strange in the Capital City, but keep in mind that our official city motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”

It’s May 2—which means there are 28 days left in the Regular Session—and cold, if you can believe Texas has ever had cold weather this late in the spring. In the previous sentence, I stressed that there are four weeks left in the Regular Session because I’m going to go on record now in predicting there will be at least one Special Session, maybe more. The Senate doesn’t seem able to come to agreement on its own version of a 2012-13 biennium budget, much less prepared to take on House conferees to negotiate differences between the House’s version of HB 1 and the Senate Finance committee’s version of that bill—currently a difference of about $12 billion. Establishing a budget for the following two years is the one-and-only requirement of every Texas Legislature, so the current state of flux (and/or impasse) only increases “Special Session likelihood” with each passing day.

The final 4-6 weeks of a Regular Session is typically the point where many bills start dying, although that doesn’t mean they disappear. This is the time when “bills become amendments”…things someone thought they had successfully bottled up earlier suddenly show up again in a bill that used to be OK, but now is a problem. If you’re confused, don’t worry, it’s not you…it’s the process. The good news is you do have professional staff in Austin who may not understand design or codes all that well, but we know the legislative process—and, we’re paranoid on your behalf!

Nothing that’s been identified as “TSA Priority Legislation” in previous blogs is dead, at least not “officially,” which is tremendously encouraging. We’re working both the committees that set bills for debate and action by the full House (Calendars and Local & Consent Calendars) hard to set bills that we want to pass, as well as trying to keep bad bills off those lists. For example, last week we urged affirmative action on HBs 611 and 628 (our Alternative Project Delivery bill) with Calendars, and HB 2284 (the A/E scope-of-practice negotiated compromise) with Local & Consent, and sent a Legislative Alert to TSA members who are constituents of the 15 members of the Calendars to oppose setting HB 3166, a bill that would consolidate the Boards of Architectural Examiners, Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

Speaking of Legislative Alerts, please stay vigilant for any you receive. Not only are they critical in getting the Society’s message delivered to the right (decision-making) audience, they are time-sensitive. If you get one, please help us help you by acting…personally and quickly. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact the TSA office. We’re here to help, whether you need us to clarify the request, interpret legislative jargon or explain the process. Our direct telephone numbers (all Area Code 512) are Yvonne Castillo—615-7730, Ted Kozlowski—615-7731, or David Lancaster—615-7735.

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