Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Advocacy Update

David Lancaster
TSA Senior Manager of Advocacy

After every session, there is a 20-day “post-session review period,” in which the Texas Governor can 1) veto, 2) sign into law, or 3) let become law without signature any bill that was passed during that Regular Session. While waiting for the 2011 period to run its course, here are some additional comments in response to questions that have already been raised about two bills mentioned in our May 25 and May 27 Advocacy Updates blogs, and/or the most recent CheckSet article.

After this year’s constitutional “veto period” ends, we’ll post a more comprehensive “final action” report about bills that were on TSA’s Legislative Tracking System, including descriptions of some “non-bill” lobbying activities (like working to defeat bad amendments to good—or at least benign—legislation) that we believe helped to advance or protect the profession.

HB 2284
The potential for a “grandfather” opportunity for engineers mentioned in June’s CheckSet article is much different from the one that came with passage of the interior designer title act in 1991. Because so many architects were grandfathered 20 years ago under that earlier law, several called or wrote asking for more detail, or at least clarification, about the difference or similarities between the two situations.

For an engineer to be granted a waiver by TBAE, he or she must offer documentation that they prepared the architectural plans and specifications for at least three projects that exceeded the threshold where an architect would be required. That application and documentation process must occur between Sept. 1, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2012. The Board of Architectural Examiners must determine during that time whether or not the projects are eligible or not, and if the projects were built "safely and adequately." (The TBAE decision is appealable to the State Office of Administrative Hearings.)

Contrast that with 1991 when, because all architects were exempt under that new title (as opposed to practice) law, they had two years in which to do so. All that was necessary was that an architect file the required paperwork asking to be jointly recognized and registered as an Architect and Interior Designer.

One of the most important elements of HB 2284 is the wording that, while architecture and engineering may be closely related...while they even have significant areas of overlap, the two professions are sufficiently different that the legislature had reason to put into statute that engineers may not prepare all the plans and specifications for a building intended for human use or occupancy; architects must be involved in those projects, too.

That clarification – that the practice of engineering does not include the practice of architecture – is what has been sought for many years. Given this clarification, our part of the negotiations centered on how to develop the best, most responsible "prove up" grandfathering process to qualify the number of engineers who might make it onto TBAE's “exempt list.”

HB 51/HB 1728
We’ve received numerous calls from optimistic members (or their accountants) about the “IRS Code, Section 179D” tax credit potential in both these bills, so here’s more helpful detail from the AIA national headquarters. (Note: there are two hyper-links embedded in the AIA article below, including one to a webinar on the topic. If you have questions that still can’t be answered, contact Christina Finkenhofer at christinafinkenhofer@aia.org or call her 202/626-7478.)

*179D Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction

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