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The Angle

September 9, 2010
AIA Urges Repeal of Paperwork Burden, Congress Winds Down, Component Spotlight on AIA Birmingham, and more…

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Washington Report

AIA Fights to Repeal Paperwork Burden on Businesses
   

The AIA is joining hundreds of organizations to oppose changes to IRS 1099 reporting requirements enacted as part of the recently passed health care reform law.  These changes significantly expand the requirements for filing the "1099-Misc" form, which companies use for recording payments to contractors and other individual service providers.

Beginning in 2012, all business payments or purchases over $600 will need to be accompanied by a 1099 filing each year. This means that small firms and businesses must obtain the taxpayer ID number, or even the Social Security number, of the individual or corporation to which they are making payment at the time of the transaction, or face IRS penalties. Essentially, the requirement expands the role of the 1099-Misc from tracking service-based freelance work to recording virtually any significant business transaction.

The new 1099 filing requirements disproportionately affect smaller firms, which face mounting fees for tax preparation, or even penalties for non-compliance.

The AIA is working with its business allies to build support for an amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) to a pending Senate small business bill. Johanns’ amendment fully repeals the expanded 1099 reporting requirement, and avoids imposing complicated exception rules and classifications on businesses. The Senate is scheduled to take up the amendment next week.

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New Federal Rules Endanger Clean Energy Financing
   

AIA Working to Make PACE Bonds Available

For over a century, cities around the country have relied on land-secured financing to fund sidewalks, sewers, and public goods. A municipality is able to raise money by issuing a bond in the short term and recover money by placing a lien on specific buildings’ property taxes to repay the bond over time.

In 2008, Berkeley, CA, became the first jurisdiction to apply this method to invest in clean energy technology. Property assessed clean energy (PACE) bonds allow property owners to opt into the program, receive money from the city up-front, install their energy upgrades and repay the money over time with the savings on their energy bill. If the current owners move, the lien, as well as the benefits, remains with the property. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has hailed PACE as an innovative way around the significant up-front costs of these building improvements. The program has since been authorized in 22 states and is poised to make a significant impact on small-scale generation.

However, that came to a halt in late June, when the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) issued a statement that effectively blocked Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae from accepting loans on PACE-assessed homes. The reason, they say, is that the debt on the liens takes priority over mortgage debt, increasing the losses on the mortgage if a property went into foreclosure. Backers of PACE bonds point out, however, that this is no different from any other land-secured assessment, and preliminary evidence suggests that PACE-assessed homes default at a lower rate. Furthermore, the FHFA rejected an offer from the Obama administration that would have guaranteed PACE-related losses for two years, eliminating the risk entirely.

There is still a chance the mortgage giants will back down from their statements and attempt to reach an agreement with PACE supporters. And, as Congress returns to work in September, legislation supported by the AIA has been introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would more explicitly define PACE bonds and curtail the authority of FHFA in this respect. Although Congress is not likely to debate comprehensive energy legislation before the November election, PACE backers are working to override the FHFA’s rules as soon as possible.

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Congress Returns for Short Session with Long To-Do List
   

Members of Congress are preparing to return to Washington next week with a long list of unfinished legislation to consider. But with the midterm elections looming, lawmakers do not plan to stay out of their districts for long.

The first order of business on Capitol Hill is a small business bill that has been stuck in the Senate. The bill, backed by the AIA, would create a $30 billion fund for banks to lend to small businesses. Senators will vote on a series of amendments to change or repeal a provision in the health care reform law requiring additional 1099 reporting from businesses (see story above).  Congress also plans to finalize a spending bill for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before the end of the month.

Congress also might try to pass tax legislation. With the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, lawmakers from both parties want to address an extension. Republicans generally favor extending the tax cuts for all income brackets, while President Obama this week came out for extending them only for people with incomes below $250,000. In addition, the Senate might make another run at passing a so-called “extenders” bill to prolong several tax incentives. The Senate failed to overcome a filibuster on the extenders bill earlier this summer, in large part because of the proposed increase in payroll taxes on professional services S corporations, including small architecture firms. Most observers believe that any new extenders bill will not include an S corporation tax hike.

One item not on the agenda for September is energy. Although the House passed legislation addressing the Gulf oil spill in July, the capping of the Deepwater Horizon well has slowed momentum for action. In addition, the failure of the Senate to act on a slimmed-down energy bill in July means that little will get done before the election. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that the Senate might take up oil spill and energy legislation in a “lame duck” session after the election.

Another item that likely will not see much action is the President’s jobs agenda, which he unveiled yesterday in Cleveland. The three-part proposal would permanently extend the research and development tax credit, allow for 100 percent expensing of capital investments by businesses, and invest $50 billion in road, rail and airport projects. It is not likely that Congress will have the time – or the votes – to pass the plan before the election.

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    Stay tuned to the Angle for updates on Congress’ activity and how it impacts the architecture profession.

Measuring and Enhancing Services Trade Data and Information Conference on September 14
   

Measuring and Enhancing Services Trade Data is a kickoff event for a broader initiative to collect and disseminate the data and information needed to enable services industries to make better informed business decisions. 

The conference will feature innovative new approaches involving the collection and dissemination of data and information from public and private sources.  Participant input will be used to formulate an action plan going forward to tackle this important issue and improve the competitiveness of U.S. services industries. Speakers include well-known policy leaders from the Bureau of Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and private sector innovators such as Fed Ex, Microsoft, comScore and Brandeis University. 

To register, call 703-925-9620, ext 0 or visit the government’s website.

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    To get more information or to register for his conference, click here.

Component Spotlight: AIA Birmingham Assists Mayor on Sustainability Initiatives, Hosts Green Building Focus Conference
   

AIA Birmingham has increasingly developed its reputation as the credible voice for the profession, particularly in terms of sustainable design. And with city Mayor William A. Bell, Sr.’s recent declaration to make Birmingham a “sustainable city,” he logically asked AIA Birmingham to assist him on the effort.

The chapter met with the mayor and key staffers to tell them how architects can help. Attended by Rhea Williams, Executive Director of AIA Birmingham; Trevor Matchett, COTE Chair for AIA Birmingham; and Bruce Herrington, AIA Birmingham legislative chair; Mayor Bell’s response to the group’s proposals was overwhelmingly positive. As a result, AIA Birmingham has evaluated various criteria for creating or selecting a rating system for the city’s use in recognizing and promoting sustainable design and construction in Birmingham. AIA Birmingham will continue to take a leadership role in this effort as the mayor’s office evaluates the criteria and moves forward on the initiative.

“This is a great opportunity for architects in Birmingham to be in the forefront of a solution to an issue that can help the local air quality, water quality and water use efficiency, which will enhance industrial development and business recruitment, and will shine a new light on design and construction,” said Herrington.

AIA Birmingham’s work with the city government does not end there. The chapter is preparing a presentation of sustainable design principles for a meeting of the city’s departmental directors.  Additionally, they will assist the city’s Department of Planning, Engineering and Permits in an overview and evaluation of the International Green Construction Code, including recommendations for adoption (for more on the IGCC, see below).  Finally, the Mayor asked the chapter to assist the city in identifying potential funding sources, including those available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to meet these sustainability goes. 

In addition to the chapter’s connection with the Mayor’s office, for the second year in a row, AIA Birmingham and Alabama Council AIA sponsored the Green Building Focus conference in late August, drawing sponsors, speakers and exhibits from all over the country. Topics featured at the conference included the International Green Construction Code, the role of governance in a green economy, and federal incentives for green projects.

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    The Component Spotlight highlights the important work of the more than 300 components across the country. To highlight your component, contact the Angle and describe your component's recent successes and/or innovative initiatives.

AIA Components Get Involved in Election Events
   

With November’s elections fast approaching, AIA components and members are becoming active participants in the process, hosting and participating in both political and non-political events.

AIA Utah Hosts Town Hall Meetings
In August, AIA Utah hosted three town hall meetings with the state’s three members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The first was with Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-3), a first-term legislator who met with 20 AIA Utah members and others in Provo. Another group met with Congressman Jim Matheson (D-2), followed by a meeting with Congressman Rob Bishop (R-1).  The three meetings focused on discussions on the economy, jobs, and other issues impacting the design and construction industry in Utah. During the meeting with Congressman Matheson, the topic of interoperability of BIM came up, leading the Congressman to get excited about a new issue which he plans to follow-up on with the chapter to find solutions to the problem.

St. Louis Members Support AIA Champion
In early September, AIA National Board member Kevin Flynn, FAIA, and other members of the AIA St. Louis component hosted a fundraiser for U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-3).  The event was held at the offices of Kiku Obata & Company, the St. Louis-based design firm where Flynn serves as Vice President.  The event drew more than 30 architects, allied professionals, and other supporters of Congressman Carnahan and helped strengthen the AIA’s ties with one of its congressional champions.  Carnahan, currently in his third term representing St. Louis, he is also the co-chair of the bi-partisan High Performance Building Congressional Caucus, a member of the Historic Preservation Caucus, and the House Transportation committee.

Candidates Face Off in San Diego
Finally, AIA San Diego hosted a candidate forum for two contested races for the San Diego City Council in early August.  At the forum, candidates were asked about issues related to land use, planning, sustainability, and infrastructure.  The forum was a success and, in an article in the San Diego Source, one of the candidates commented, “How nice it is to be discussing the future and the potential of San Diego, instead of merely talking about immediate concerns that are directly in front of us.”

What is your component doing?  Let us know so we can tell the story in the Angle.

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    For more information on hosting town hall meetings, candidate forums, or fundraisers, contact the Advocacy Outreach team.

IGCC Moves Forward into Next Phase of Development
   

With the recent completion of the 2010 International Green Construction Code (IGCC) Public Comment Hearings, the ICC is now moving into the next step in the development of the IGCC – a full cycle of ICC Code Development in 2011. They have posted a Call for Committee for the 2011 IGCC Code Committee on their website with an application deadline of October 1, 2010.  The second version of the draft IGCC reflecting the decisions of the recent hearings will be available in November.

As a founding partner in the development of the IGCC, AIA will continue to be an integral part of the process, and encourage our members to apply for seats on the IGCC code development committee.  The AIA is committed to representing the best interests of our members and will in particular be carefully examining and addressing the professional practice issues and concerns that arise out of the code as it becomes finalized and published for the first time in 2012. In particular, we encourage practicing architects who have a deep understanding of building science and its integration with all aspects of professional practice issues to apply. 

The successful development of the IGCC will rely heavily on both a well-informed code development committee, and continued participation by AIA members in the public comment periods and hearings.  AIA National will be submitting detailed public comments building on our work during the first public comment period, focusing in particular on prescriptive and performance energy requirements and professional practice issues linked with the administrative and commissioning chapters, as well as other areas of the code focused on comprehensive design solutions. 

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    For more information on the IGCC development process, please contact Jessyca Henderson, AIA, director, Sustainability Advocacy.

    For more information and guidance on advocating for adoption and implementation of the IGCC, click here.

ArchiPAC Launches Regional Challenge to Boost Participation in Advance of Elections, Support Emerging Professionals
   

Following the success of the ArchiPAC Alumni Challenge during the AIA National Convention and Design Exposition, ArchiPAC recently launched the ArchiPAC Regional Challenge, a fundraising initiative to engage more AIA members in ArchiPAC and other advocacy activities. The Challenge will officially close at the end of December.

The Challenge will rest greatly on regional champions, which are individuals interested in or active with ArchiPAC. All Regional Champions will be invited to participate in a conference call on Tuesday, September 21 at 4 pm ET to discuss strategies for fundraising and what the staff at AIA National can do to help the champions in this effort.

The total goal for the Challenge, from all regions, is to raise $50,000 by December 31, and get 500 new donors to ArchiPAC. Several winners will be chosen – both the region with the highest amount raised and the region with the highest participation amongst membership (as a percentage of total region membership). The winning regions will be able to select a charity from a list of organizations or foundations in that region that benefit emerging architecture professionals and architecture students. ArchiPAC will make a $1,000 contribution to the chosen charities. In addition, a raffle for an Apple iPad will be held for those participating individually as an ArchiPAC Regional Challenge Champion. For more information, contact Hannah Wesolowski, manager of Political Programs.

The Challenge is a great way for AIA members to get involved in the AIA’s advocacy efforts. For more information, visit www.archipac.org.

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    To find out how to become a regional champion or to get information on the call on Tuesday, September 21 at 4 pm ET, contact Hannah Wesolowski, manager of Political Programs.

Sustainable Design Assessment Team application period now open
   

The Center for Communities by Design is pleased to announce the release of the 2011 Sustainable Design Assessment Team Application Packet. The final deadline to submit proposals for consideration in the 2011 SDAT program is November 19, 2010.  Recipient communities will be notified of their application’s acceptance in December of 2010. Submittals from past successful applicants can be found on our webpage; you can also view additional materials generated by SDAT teams, including final reports and presentations, by following that link.

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The Angle is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact The Angle, send an email to govaffs@aia.org.

 

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