On February 7, Texas architects descended on the Capitol for a day of legislative action (and snakes!).
Uniting behind a slate of priorities, including adequate funding for courthouse preservation, 186 TxA members formed 39 teams to meet with state lawmakers. After a morning briefing at the AT&T Center, architects assembled for a group photo at the Capitol, avoiding a tangle of rattlesnakes in a rotunda in the process. The image launched a thousand quips, and then everyone was off to the races. With packed agendas of meetings, each team met with a few of the Senators and Representatives for their region. Even on a day when the senate was actively in session, several teams were able to meet in person with their senators.
El Paso’s team, consisting of Tommy Razloznik, AIA, Frederic Dalbin, AIA, Hector De Santiago, AIA, and Bruno Vasquez, AIA, met with a staffer in Senator Jose Rodriguez’s office. The Senator, from District 29, sits on the Natural Resources and Economic Development Committees. Discussing courthouse preservation, the team described, “El Paso, at one time we had a jewel, but it fell in total despair.” Even the replacement has been replaced. Connecting on this point, the team sought “enough funding to at least stabilize all of the structures so we don’t lose them entirely.” The staffer was sympathetic, but also cautioned that Senate budgets are tighter than in years past. She suggested that the House budget might be friendlier to architects, as the House and Senate budgets are $8 billion apart.
Next, the team described their personal experiences with the increasingly litigation-prone environment that their firms operate in, including the way their insurance rates have increased in recent years. They expressed their support for HB 1053, which would shorten Texas’s statute of repose, putting it more in line with the majority of other states at around 5 years.
After a productive conversation, the team left, making sure to leave behind this year’s Architects Day poster. A depiction of the Capitol in 2020, the illustration is a sketch from Page’s Capitol Complex Master Plan. “I don’t think the staff’s going to end up with this,” said the staffer. “The Senator only gives us what he doesn’t want.”
Next, a team representing the Lower Rio Grande Valley, including Manuel Hinojosa, FAIA, Michael Allex, AIA, and Jamie Crawley, AIA, visited Representative Oscar Longoria. Representative Longoria is the Vice Chair of the Committee on Investments and Financial Services. This team had similar problems to the team from El Paso, describing, “In the Valley, we’re getting lawsuit after lawsuit…talking to school districts trying to get free money.” Representative Longoria proved to be very familiar with the problem and was interested in finding solutions, stating that the schools should at the very least be using the money from the lawsuits to fix the problems. “We’re not big firms down in the Valley, 10 or fewer people,” a team member described. “If you get two lawsuits, you’re out of business.”
As the day concluded, architects gathered and discussed their conversations, encouraged by the chance to make their voices heard during a contentious and important political season. The work will continue next week, when Senior Advocate David Lancaster, Hon. AIA, will host a screening of TxA’s courthouse preservation videos at the Capitol