Advocacy Update: Eight Weeks To Go!

Advocacy updates are provided by Texas Architects Senior Advocate David Lancaster, Hon. AIA

Capitol Complex

Capitol Complex – courtesy State Preservation Board

As usual, activity at the Texas Capitol speeds up greatly in late March and April.  So far, the Society’s focus has been in three general areas:

  • Sunset bills, especially HB 1717 relating to the Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE), and HB 2107, relating to the Facilities Commission (TFC);
  • Bills aimed at improving the Public Private Partnership (P3) law and ensuring a Master Plan with appropriate design standards for the Capitol Complex, with particular attention on SB 507
  • A plethora of licensing bills that would regulate new groups – from roofing contractors (HB 123) to energy auditors (SB 617).

So far, so good. We’ve testified positively on all the above, and each of those bills currently has acceptable language to protect or advance the profession and, in some cases, even promote good design. 

Let me point out, however, that all the “new” licensing bills (i.e., the ones that would regulate more specific activities or areas of practice that architects already do sometimes as a part of their practice) were not on our radar at the start of the session. They are something we’ve had to add to our “watch/fix” list because we don’t want to see the profession become more splintered or limited simply to the design of a building’s shell. Architects are generally the best-qualified professionals to handle design and construction of buildings intended for human use or occupancy, and we’ve insisted on blanket exemptions for architects to ensure you aren’t adversely affected.

We’re also tracking bills that would require educational facility inventories to be maintained, and bills with procurement issues. In this session, the latter category has focused on ensuring that private entities created by political subdivisions (i.e., local economic development corporations, etc.) follow the same procurement rules as their “parent” public entity, instead of having to defend direct attacks on the QBS law as in previous sessions. Having local entities acting like private ventures when procuring design and construction services has become the latest way for some political subdivisions to attempt circumvention of QBS and, therefore, something we are committed to correcting.

One thing to note is that this is the point in the session when we usually see mischief begin to creep into the process. We’re currently tracking more than 200 bills with a potential to impact the profession, the majority of which we don’t expect will go anywhere. But right about now is when bills that didn’t make it in committee start breaking loose and appearing as amendments. We must remain ever more vigilant to avoid getting surprised. 

In addition to a “vigilant defense,” we’ll still have opportunities to offer some late-breaking amendments of our own … from improvements to the Lien Law to helping eliminate abuses in the sale of goods and services through purchasing co-ops. The Government Affairs Steering Committee meets Thursday, April 4, to consider priorities and set the course for the last two months.  Stay tuned.

If you want more information before our next "Advocacy Update," email Ted Kozlowski or me, or call us at 512-478-7386.

Posted: April 2, 2013