Advocacy Update: SAC Fingerprinting Requirements

The Society's Senior Advocate David Lancaster, Hon. AIA, shares the Society's position on the Sunset Advisory Commission's fingerprinting requirement passed during the 83rd Legislative Session. The recommendation was part of the TBAE Sunset review bill.

David Lancaster, Hon. AIA

Pardon the pun, but the 2013 legislative issue that has left the biggest imprint on AIA members has unquestionably been fingerprinting. We’ve heard more from members on that requirement, which is a Sunset Advisory Commission “boiler-plate” recommendation for every licensing agency going through its routine periodic Sunset review, than we have any other practice-related issue.

Important details to remember about this new requirement: 1) it doesn’t begin until January 2014 — there will not be any this year; and, 2) the fingerprinting will not be conducted by the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners (TBAE), nor will the TBAE be the keeper of the fingerprints; that will all be done by the Department of Public Safety (DPS).

fingerprint

Fingerprinting is being required of every Texas licensee, not just architects. – image by Patrick Foto/Shutterstock

Please understand — and believe — that your TxA advocates did everything possible to suggest that architects are the professional that least needs to be fingerprinted — if they need to be fingerprinted at all. To maintain credibility, however, lobbyists must pick their battles. Discretion is, indeed, the better part of valor. When it became obvious that continuing to oppose this proposal — one being applied across-the-board to physicians and other health professionals, attorneys, engineers, etc.— would not only be futile, it would create animosity with legislators, we changed our focus to see what might be done to lessen the impact.

Our current efforts are to see what can be done to utilize accessible fingerprint records that are already on file with federal, state, or local governments. For example, many architects have gone through a security clearance to secure contracts with the General Services Administration, Department of Defense, certain school districts, or maybe for another, non-practice security-related purpose, such as obtaining a concealed handgun license (CHL). If the DPS and/or the Federal Bureau of Investigation can access background checks that have already been conducted, we hope to avoid requiring a duplication of such efforts.

Given the state of the DPS’ computer system, it remains to be seen if this tack will succeed. But we will continue to push as long and as hard as we can to make this new requirement the least objectionable, least intrusive process it can possibly be. In the meantime, we ask that you keep in mind, “It’s not about you; it’s not about architects; it’s something being required of every Texas licensee.”