Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
March 3, 2011
How the potential federal government shutdown is playing out; Solar Decathlon back on Mall; SBA works to lessen regulatory burden; updates on SGN activity; Component Spotlight; and more…
In this issue:
State and Local Update
AIA Members Getting Involved
Congress is looking to pass stop-gap legislation to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government when temporary funding laws run out tomorrow (Friday, March 4). House Republicans have proposed a short-term solution that would cut $4 billion from current spending levels and extend federal funding for two more weeks in the hope this will buy time for Congress to hammer out a deal on spending for the remainder of the fiscal year.
This follows the February 19 House passage of a bill that cut 2011 spending levels by about $61billion, an amount Senate Democrats say is too extreme and cannot pass their chamber. While talks about the larger spending package continue, both sides have identified $4 billion in relatively non-controversial spending cuts that can be passed for now, preventing a government shutdown. These cuts would rescind unspent highway spending and would cut four ineffective Department of Education programs, a broadband program, and state-election grants -- all of which the Obama administration proposed to eliminate in its budget request last month.
Assuming that Congress passes a two-week extension before tomorrow, the pressure will build for a new budget bill by March 18. If Congress and the White House cannot agree on a larger spending bill by then, the government will face another threat of a shutdown at that time. The AIA will continue to monitor the budget process and will remain an active player in the spending debate.
Thanks to a push by the AIA, other industry groups and the teams themselves, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) have brought the Solar Decathlon back to the National Mall.
Earlier this year, DOE and DOI decided to remove the competition from its original location on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Capitol, due to the National Park Service's restoration plans. Since then, many have speculated about possible alternate locations, including the National Harbor in Maryland and RFK Stadium in the District, both of which Decathlon backers believed would be unsuitable as neither could offer the same degree of national prominence, exposure, or accessibility the event warrants.
In response, various organizations and the competing teams launched several grassroots efforts to return the Decathlon to the Mall. The AIA joined industry partners in a letter to President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar urging them to reconsider the decision. Nearly 500 AIA members sent letters to their members of Congress through the AIA's action alert system, and the AIA actively engaged the administration and congressional contacts, including Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), two advocates for the event who drafted their own letters to the Obama administration.
This significant pressure prompted DOE and DOI to find a better solution. Last week they announced that the next Solar Decathlon, scheduled for September 2011, will take place at the National Mall's West Potomac Park, located along the Potomac River near the soon-to-be-opened Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. Although this new location is not as publicly prominent as the original site, it is still in the center of the Nation's capital, within close proximity to the original site and far more accessible than the other options floated.
The AIA and its members will continue to work with the Department of Energy to publicize the Decathlon and ensure its success and develop a long-term plan to ensure that the program retains its prominence. To learn more about the event and the teams competing, please visit the event website here.
For more information, contact Billie Kaumaya, manager, Federal Regulatory Relations.
Do you or your firm have projects that have stalled due to a lack of financing? Do you know of projects that have benefitted from federal programs like the energy efficient commercial building tax deduction or SBA loans, or projects that may go forward if those incentives are expanded? We want to hear from you. Click here to help us tell the public how stalled projects are holding the economy back -- and how we can all work to rebuild and renew America.
Often, there are issues before Congress that are non-controversial, receive bipartisan support, and thus move quite expediently through the cog wheels of Congress. So why, many wonder, does an issue that receives such strong bipartisan support, like the 1099 filing mandate, fail to pass?
There is a pretty straightforward answer: the pay-for. In an effort to rein in spending, the 112th Congress seeks to cut spending with every passed bill. Thus, an issue that is relatively non-controversial on its face, such as the 1099 mandate, can be held up by a fight over the pay-for.
There have been several incarnations of a 1099 mandate repeal, each offering to pay for its estimated $19 billion price tag in varying ways. Some did not suggest a pay-for at all, others recovered revenue from unspent stimulus funds, and a few recommended repealing costly portions of the healthcare reform package, where this mandate originated. However, none have garnered sufficient support from both sides of the aisle to pass.
Currently, there are two versions of a repeal that are before the House. The first is a part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which passed the Senate in late February, and now awaits House consideration. The pay-for would target unspent appropriated funds. However, House Republicans support an alternative version, HR. 4, the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011, which is currently being debated on the House floor. This bill proposes to reduce health insurance premium assistance and recapture overpayments under the healthcare reform law as a pay-for. However, Democrats have voiced opposition to this pay-for, arguing that it will burden hard-working Americans.
If the House does pass its repeal bill, the Senate will likely have to take up that bill, since the Senate passed version is locked into the FAA reauthorization. Since the House pay-for differs from the Senate pay-for, a heated debate will ensue once again. Thus, it is unclear when repeal will pass both chambers.
The AIA remains neutral in the pay-for debate and maintains its call for a swift repeal. Please urge your Representatives to pass this repeal now. Visit our Advocacy Action Center and voice your support today.
For more information, contact Christina Finkenhofer, manager, Federal Relations.
Highlights Role of Design and Integrated Project Delivery in Sustainability Goals
The Zero Energy Commercial Buildings Consortium (CBC), on whose steering committee the AIA sits, has released two reports examining existing barriers and offering recommendations to achieve net-zero energy in commercial buildings. These reports, commissioned by the Department of Energy (DOE) to solicit industry expertise, identified energy efficiency as the most important step in achieving this goal, but also investigated many building components, new technologies, systems, and practices.
The first report, Next Generation Technologies Barriers and Industry Recommendations for Commercial Buildings, evaluates building envelope, mechanical systems and controls, lighting, daylighting and controls, process, miscellaneous equipment and IT, combined heat and power, multi-building systems, grid integration, and energy modeling.
The other report, Analysis of Cost & Non-Cost Barriers and Policy Solutions for Commercial Buildings, tackles codes and standards, integrated design and building delivery, benchmarking and performance assurance, voluntary programs, finance and valuation, owners and tenants, and workforce development. Both reports cited integrated design as a requirement, highlighting the need to standardize this process, gain widespread acknowledgement/use and promote the integration of Building Information Modeling (BIM).
The CBC was authorized in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) as a public-private partnership with DOE's Commercial Buildings Initiative. The AIA has been member of the CBC Steering Committee since its inception in 2009.
To read both reports, please visit the CBC website.
For more information, contact Billie Kaumaya, manager, Federal Regulatory Relations.
The White House announced last week a new initiative through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to pinpoint regulations that inhibit business growth. In an effort to better understand the needs of entrepreneurs, the SBA has announced eight business roundtables in the following cities:
• Durham, NC -- March 3
• Austin, TX --March 12
• Boston, MA -- TBD
• Silicon Valley, CA -- TBD
• Atlanta, GA -- TBD
• Pittsburgh, PA -- TBD
• Minneapolis, MN -- TBD
• Boulder, CO -- TBD
In order to participate, members of the public must apply via e-mail to email@example.com with their name, contact, and business information. There has been a great deal of interest in the announced dates, and space in the roundtables is limited. However, even if there is no current space, the SBA is creating a wait list for participation.
This information is current as of February 28. SBA is expecting to announce dates through this website.
The Government Affairs Assistance Grants are back. Pardon the quick turnaround, but the deadline for submitting applications is Friday, March 11 at 5 p.m. Eastern time -- and no exceptions will be granted.
The program provides matching funds to state components to assist with government advocacy efforts. Projects that may potentially impact public policy and/or the architecture profession in multiple states will have priority.
Some guidelines for consideration:
• The project proposed for funding must be a high priority state government issue.
• Grant requests related to the funding of, or supplementing the funding of, a component’s budget for functions which the component conducts on an annual basis -- for example, a lobbying day -- will not be considered.
• The initiative must follow AIA public policy.
• The project or issue must have the potential for setting or significantly influencing a national precedent.
The application form can be downloaded here.
One of the most notable accomplishments of the SGN meeting of February 1-2 was the re-institution of the SGN Advisory Panels. Each panel is intended as a forum for detailed discussion of a particular issue of current importance for architects at the state level. These panels will consist of members who have a specific interest and/or expertise in the subject matter. You needn't be an SGN member to be an Advisory Panel member.
The panels cover the following issues:
• interior design;
• project delivery;
• codes; and
• stock school plans.
* * * * *
The February 23 SGN Open Call was in many ways a recap of the Annual Meeting, but David Lancaster of the Texas Society of Architects also shared his experiences from attending "Outlook in the States & Localities," a conference held by GOVERNING magazine in Washington, concurrent with SGN and Grassroots. Lancaster noted that the following topics relevant to the practice arose during this event:
• the growing importance of bonding and public-private partnerships in financing public projects, as government budgets are expected to keep shrinking in the next few years;
• the need to coordinate policies like green building, sustainable transportation, stormwater management, and growth management into a consistent framework; and
• the need for a new, comprehensive transportation bill.
For more information on being considered for an SGN Advisory Panel or if you have any other SGN-related questions, please contact Chris Merriam, manager, State Issues and Programs.
AIA Potomac Valley Assists Zoning Rewrite Project in Montgomery County
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.
Architects from AIA Potomac Valley have been lending their expertise to Montgomery County's Zoning Rewrite Project for almost two years. This advisory panel of about 30 members was created in 2008 by Rollin Stanley, the county's planning director.
The group meets monthly to discuss two fundamental issues regarding the zoning ordinance. The first is the purely administrative need for a better document. Montgomery County is now Maryland's most populous and, as it stands, the document is unable to speak to the overwhelming growth that the county has experienced. Given that the ordinance has not been revised since 1977, it falls short in addressing the county's current problems. Consequently, the group has also been working to define a set of goals for the county in order to reflect this vision in the new ordinance.
A serious challenge to the Zoning Rewrite Project is that Montgomery County only has four percent of buildable land. The major land use in the county is devoted to residential subdivisions, with another 40 percent set aside for open space and four percent designated for parking. Additionally, there are three main low-density commercial corridors, designed to bring people in and out of Washington, DC with relative ease.
According to Carl Elefante, FAIA of AIA Potomac Valley, the roads are choked with cars and the county is too spread out. Elefante maintains that the parking lots are located in areas prime for dense, transit-oriented development. As a member of the Zoning Rewrite Project, he is working with the others to redefine the commercial zones. The idea is to make them less of the car-centered strip malls that they are and have them become more transit-oriented, walkable communities.
"AIA Potomac Valley has a real advocacy and education role in helping people see that not all development is bad and that not all change is bad. [We] realize that this project must be incremental and not a massive Robert Moses-like overhaul," says Elefante.
AIA Potomac Valley is cognizant of the fact that rewriting the zoning ordinance will require a lot of political will and a significant shift in public perception. The chapter believes its efforts will help facilitate this process.
For more information, contact Vanessa Leon, manager, Local Relations.
With the AIA's annual Capitol Hill Day now a few weeks behind us, it is crucial that AIA members remember that our work communicating with our legislators is not over. Our current issues will develop -- and we will have to remind our legislators where the AIA stands. New issues will come up through the year that AIA members need to speak up on. And regardless of current bills and action, AIA members need to continue to build relationships with all legislators -- whether at the local, state, or federal level -- to remind them that architects are a resource and can share valuable insight into policy.
How can AIA members more effectively get the AIA's message across? A recent Congressional Management Foundation survey of congressional staff found that our nation's leaders do listen to the messages we are sending. With the added benefit of many more in-district work periods this year, architects can share that message in many ways -- for example, attending virtual town halls, going to in-district office hours, or inviting members of Congress to site visits or to attend chapter events.
And when Congress is in session in Washington, the survey finds that the single most important way to get a message across is to personalize, personalize, personalize. Congressional staff sees many form letters, but individualized email messages that tell a story were ranked by Hill staff as the best way -- more than lobbying -- to influence members of Congress. So what can AIA members do to take advantage of this? Add your story to the message you send from the AIA's Advocacy Center, or email a note to a Hill staffer you may have met. Including a personal connection to the congressional district, the state, or the issue may make all the difference.
You can find more resources on how to get involved at the AIA's Advocacy365 resource center, which provides tools to help AIA members and components make the most of their efforts in growing their interaction with our nation's decision makers and allows members can send a message directly to a member of Congress or state legislator on issues the AIA has identified. Members also can learn how to hold a candidate forum, get sample appointment request letters, download a copy of the 2011 blueprint, and more.
Looking ahead, consider sharing your experiences or personal connections to an action alert when applicable. This is your story and it is worth sharing.
For more information, contact Adam Melis, director, Advocacy Outreach.
In February, Chris Merriam was hired as manager, State Issues and Programs. He began at the AIA in November 2010 as a consultant reporting to Angie Taylor, director, State Relations. Chris brings to the team a background in City and Regional Planning and is nearing completion of his Master’s Degree in that field at Morgan State University in Baltimore. His responsibilities include managing the State Government Network and its advisory committees, the SGN listserv, our state web page and resources as working directly with state chapters on related issues. Welcome to the team, Chris!
The Angle Archive:
February 17, 2011
February 10, 2011 -- Special Grassroots Recap
January 20, 2011
January 6, 2011
December 16, 2010 -- Advocacy 2010: Year in Review
December 2, 2010
November 18, 2010
November 4, 2010 -- Design Decision 2010
October 21, 2010
October 7, 2010
September 23, 2010
September 9, 2010
August 12, 2010 -- Mid Year Report
July 29, 2010
July 15, 2010
July 1, 2010
June 17, 2010
June 3, 2010
May 20, 2010
May 6, 2010
April 22, 2010
April 8, 2010
March 25, 2010
March 11, 2010
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.