Monday, May 9, 2011

Advocacy Update: Week 16

Yvonne Castillo
TSA General Counsel

Warning. What you read today could easily change tomorrow, especially during the last days of the Session, which by the way now includes Saturdays from here on out. Remarkably, few bills have passed -- 3% of all bills filed –which isn’t surprising given the unprecedented number of controversial issues the legislature is facing this Session. To name a few (as if you didn’t already know): $27 billion shortfall, abortion, immigration, 20+ major agency sunset bills, and redistricting. That’s a formula for gridlock. Yet despite these distractions, it appears that TSA is possibly headed in the direction of some accomplishments.

A/E Issue - Since the beginning of Session, TSA leadership has been heavily involved in negotiating a resolution to the ongoing dispute between architects and engineers.

It’s not been an easy road by any stretch of the imagination. The Government Affairs Steering Committee voted yesterday to move forward following extensive and in-depth discussion.

The bill that has been negotiated would create an administrative process for one year, starting September 1, 2011, whereby the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners would consider applications from engineers who are licensed as of January 1, 2011 to apply to practice architecture. Successful applicants must demonstrate to the Board that they designed and built three projects for human use and occupancy (i.e. non-exempt projects under the Architects Practice Act) without an architect. Non-successful applicants may appeal to a binding arbitration panel. The successful applicants would remain under the jurisdiction of the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. In exchange, the definition of engineering, in the Engineers Practice Act is amended to explicitly exclude the practice of architecture as defined in the Architects Practice Act. The bill was voted out of the House yesterday and is headed to the Senate.

Tort Reform Issues - “Loser pay” themed legislation appears to have some momentum this Session, especially now that the Governor has declared the legislation as an “emergency” item. Already, a bill has passed that mandates that successful lien claimants recover attorneys and costs in defending their claims. It appears that other legislation with this same theme may prevail.

Tax Incentives – TSA is working to pass legislation that would ease the ability for architects to maximize on the use of federal tax incentives intended for design professionals that was built into the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Alternative Project Delivery – Consistency in delivery methods still has a chance for passage, but it’s going to be close. The clock is ticking for House bills. If we can get it out of the House next week, it’s looking good.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned. Next week could be a completely different story. Heck, Monday could be a completely different story! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact staff if you have questions.

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