Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
March 17, 2011
Japan -- and how architects can help; SBA proposes changes to firm size determinations; 1099 reform moves along at a crawl; AOC budget cuts on the table; updates from the states and ArchiPAC; how to spend the Congressional recess; and more…
In this issue:
State and Local Update
AIA Members Getting Involved
"Our hearts go out to the people of Japan as a result of this horrific earthquake and tsunami. We are in contact with our colleagues at AIA Japan and the Japan Institute of Architects to offer not only our condolences but our profession's technical and professional expertise when the initiative begins focusing on rebuilding."
This was the message from AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, to AIA members following the tragic events that unfolded late last week. It is a message that has also been delivered to the AIA's professional colleagues in Japan.
Architects play key roles in helping communities recover and rebuild from natural disasters by performing damage assessments of buildings or engaging in the long process of redesigning a built environment. These activities take place weeks or months after the disaster, after the initial rescue and relief activities are completed. Because Japan has extensive licensing and building design regulations, assistance efforts made by foreign organizations like the AIA or its members should be done at the invitation of appropriate entities.
BREAKING: Late yesterday (March 16), the State Department issued a new Japan travel warning, their highest level of concern regarding U.S. citizens abroad, because of the nuclear crisis and hardships from the earthquake. The warning states that the Department "strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing."
Initial Relief Efforts Take Precedence
Already, there has been an outpouring of support and offers to help from AIA members around the country and abroad.
The AIA has created a resource page for Japan and advises members that the best way to assist in these early stages is by donating to relief organizations like the Red Cross.
Additionally, the AIA will rely on the advice and expertise of members around the country, particularly the President’s Disaster Assistance Task Force. Chaired by Rachel Minnery, this member group also includes Jennifer Zolkos, Michael Lingerfelt, Kirk O’Brien, C. Stan Peterson, Terry Brown, Ann Somers, and George Salinas.
Next Steps: Rebuilding and Ensuring Better Building Codes
The AIA also is preparing to help its members take a more active role once rebuilding begins. The U.S. Department of Commerce has asked the AIA and other related professional bodies to help it assemble database of professionals and companies that can aid in the rebuild process. Architects and firms that are interested in getting on this database can send their name, company, address, city, point-of-contact, and specialty description to Jessica Salmoiraghi, director, Federal Regulatory Relations. There is no obligation to participate or a guarantee that entities that sign up will be contacted.
The AIA also is renewing its call made last year for Congress to fund the Codes and Safety for Americas Act (CASA). We recognize that the disaster in Japan would have been much worse if it had struck anywhere else, in countries that are much less prepared. Currently targeted for Latin America, funding for CASA would enable USAID to assist countries in dealing with the mitigation of disasters by training professionals in both the public and private sector to enhance their understanding of building design codes and standards.
The AIA will continue to coordinate with our partner organizations in Japan and update AIA members as the situation continues to evolve. Please look to upcoming issues of The Angle and AIArchitect for regular updates.
On March 16, the Small Business Administration released a proposed rule regarding new size standards for architecture firms, which, if adopted, would increase the amount of gross annual revenues for consideration as a small business for federal government purposes from $4.5 million to $19 million.
Should you have a suggestion or comment on this proposal (designated RIN3245-AG07), there are two methods by which you can do so:
For more information, contact Jessica Salmoiraghi, director, Federal Regulatory Relations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated this week that he would support the House version of the legislation that eliminates the Form 1099 paperwork burden on small businesses, raising the prospects that the provision will be repealed in 2011. Despite a number of House Democrats and consumer groups calling the pay-for provision a major tax increase on the middle class, it appears that a number of Senate Democrats are willing to support the House-passed Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011.
The House provision pays for the estimated $19 billion repeal by making consumers repay all of their insurance subsidies under the newly enacted health care law once their income rises beyond 400 percent of the federal poverty line. House Democrats call that a tax increase on the middle class, and the administration agreed in a policy statement disclosed before the House vote. However, the President did not threaten a veto.
In late February, the Senate passed its own version of a repeal as a part of a Federal Aviation Administration bill, with an alternative offset. The Senate pay-for provision authorizes the White House to eliminate nearly $44 billion of discretionary spending. That legislation has yet to be taken up by the House.
The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote on the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act of 2011, but supporters of the bill hope that Majority Leader Reid will call for votes soon.
The AIA will continue to monitor this legislation and maintains its support for elimination of the paperwork mandate. To contact your representatives and ask them to support repealing the requirement, click here.
For more information, contact Christina Finkenhofer, manager, Federal Relations.
Raising concerns that budget cuts will threaten the safety and historic fabric of the U.S. Capitol, the AIA and a coalition of organizations has urged Congress to provide the Architect of the Capitol with adequate funding to address urgent repair and rehabilitation needs, noting that deferring work will only cost taxpayers more in the long run.
In February, the House approved a budget plan for the rest of the fiscal year that ends in September that would cut the Architect's budget by $29 million, or nearly 6 percent, from the previous fiscal year.
In the letter to Congressional leaders, the AIA and its allies noted that while deficit reduction must be a top priority, the proposed cuts "will ultimately lead to higher costs to taxpayers in future years as deferred repairs come due. Worse, these short-sighted cuts will risk the heritage, safety and security of the U.S. Capitol, the world's leading symbol of democracy."
The letter noted that more than 60 percent of the work in the Architect's budget is for basic repairs and improvements. "Congress has an obligation to spend taxpayer money wisely," the groups wrote. "It also has an obligation to be a faithful steward of treasures that belong to the American people."
The Senate has produced a budget plan that would cut the Architect's budget, but by a lesser amount. Congressional leaders are working to finalize a budget agreement for the remainder of the fiscal year but have been unable to do so because of disagreements over spending levels. Already the budget delay has threatened progress on one of the Architect's top priorities: repairing the iconic Capitol dome, which is suffering from cracks, peeling paint and windows and gutters in need of replacement.
For more information, contact Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, senior director, Federal 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.
The General Services Administration (GSA) is encouraging all federal agencies to use its policy for allocating the Sec. 179D energy efficient commercial building tax deduction to architects and engineers.
"The Energy-Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction is a significant financial incentive for contractors to meet or exceed an agency's energy reduction requirements for new and existing buildings," the GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy wrote in a March 14 Federal Register notice. "In the event that a contractor requests allocation of the tax deduction from an agency, the agency can use GSA's Policy on Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction as an information resource for allocating the deduction."
The GSA's notice is significant because numerous federal agencies currently do not have clear-cut instructions for its personnel to allocate the deduction to designers. In addition, many state and local government agencies are unaware of, or lack clear guidance on, the 179D allocation.
The GSA issued its policy regarding the energy efficient commercial building tax deduction at the request of AIA in 2010.The AIA, which has supported the deduction since its inception in 2005, was instrumental in having the Internal Revenue Service issue guidelines in 2008 that enable public entities at the federal, state and local level to allocate the deduction to the designer.
For more information, contact Christina Finkenhofer, manager, Federal Relations.
AIA is investigating architectural opportunities in India. The Indian economy is among the fastest growing in the world and it offers tremendous opportunities for American architects. The Institute is working on developing a trade mission in the spring of 2012 to India to build relationships with current developers while also gaining insight into the market there.
To that end, the AIA is pursuing a grant application for the Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP) 2011 grant term. The MDCP is part of the Department of Commerce mission to increase double exports over the next five years. This is the first time that the AIA has applied for the grant, and it would provide additional resources for the AIA as international building development is rapidly growing. For more information about the grant and opportunities to grow your business abroad, click here.
For more information, contact Jessica Salmoiraghi, director, Federal Regulatory Relations.
AIA State Relations Update
Recently, Eric Davis, AIA, an active member of the State Government Network (SGN) representing AIA Illinois, authored an opinion piece that was published by The Architects' Newspaper. The article, entitled "It Pays to be Civic-Minded," emphasized the importance of architects being politically involved.
"We are the only profession that is trained to see a world that doesn't exist yet," Davis wrote, "but we are maddeningly unwilling to get involved in establishing the policies that set the parameters for programming and design."
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Those in the A/E/C sector providing pre-construction services in Utah will receive added protection should Gov. Gary Herbert (R) sign a recently-passed mechanics' lien bill (HB 115), as expected. AIA Utah worked in coalition with the state chapter of the Associated General Contractors and the Utah Bankers Association to draft and support the bill.
Congratulations to Elizabeth Mitchell, Ken Adlam, and the AIA Utah advocacy team for their teamwork and hard work on this issue.
For more information, contact Chris Merriam, manager, State Issues and Programs.
As a member of the National League of Cities (NLC) Corporate Partners program, the AIA participated in NLC's Congressional Cities Conference this past week (March 12-16) in Washington, DC. The purpose of the program, of which the AIA has been a member since 2009, is to facilitate the sharing of ideas between city officials from across the nation and corporate and non-profit leaders in order to bolster local government. The program also encourages corporate civic engagement by providing a venue for partners to communicate their work on behalf of local communities to a larger audience.
The AIA also sits on NLC's Corporate Partners Leadership Council, an advisory body to the NLC Board of Directors. The council's priorities for 2011, discussed at a meeting held during the conference, include investing in transportation infrastructure and fixing the broken immigration system in the United States. A significant portion of this meeting focused on preserving the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) at $4 billion for Fiscal Year 2012. The House proposed a 62 percent cut to CDBG, but the Senate did not adopt this measure. The NLC is calling on municipal officials, community leaders, architects, developers, and other stakeholders to inform members of Congress of the important role that CDBG has played in supporting community development.
Also at the conference, NLC President Councilman James Mitchell, Jr. (D-Charlotte), launched the "A.S.K. a Corporate Partner -- Consultations for Answers, Solutions, Knowledge" sessions. These sessions offered an opportunity for local government stakeholders to engage with private companies and non-profit entities concerning their communities. AIA Local Relations staff participated in these 20-minute, one-on-one consultations with mayors from Riverside, Ohio; Branson, Missouri; Ville Platte, Louisiana; and Delray Beach, Florida. The primary topics discussed were green building/sustainability, economic development, and community-wide design and planning. The mayors solicited the Institute's input concerning projects that were either already underway or being proposed for their communities. In addition, mayors indicated strong interest in Sustainable and Regional/Urban Design Assessment Team (SDAT and R/UDAT) programs offered by the AIA's Communities by Design team, as well as the Local Leaders in Sustainability reports.
For more information, contact Vanessa Leon, manager, Local Relations.
Learn how you can get involved
At the 2011 Grassroots Conference, ArchiPAC announced the 2011 goal of raising $200,000 to support candidates that understand the AIA's position on issues affecting the built environment, our profession, our communities, and our practices. Along with the overall goal, for the first time, ArchiPAC also released fundraising goals for each AIA region. As of March 15, the AIA regions, listed alphabetically, have raised the following:
• California: $5,237 (GOAL: $20,000)
• Central States: $1,120 (GOAL: $10,000)
• Florida & Caribbean: $2,442 (GOAL: $10,000)
• Gulf States: $4,371 (GOAL: $13,500)
• Illinois: $1,397 (GOAL: $10,000)
• Michigan: $462 (GOAL: $3,500)
• Middle Atlantic: $787 (GOAL: $10,000)
• New England: $2,200 (GOAL: $12,000)
• New Jersey: $1,944 (GOAL: $6,500)
• New York: $3,447 (GOAL: $17,500)
• North Central States: $1,287 (GOAL: $10,000)
• Northwest & Pacific: $2,375 (GOAL: $12,000)
• Ohio Valley: $3,452 (GOAL: $10,000)
• Pennsylvania: $1,157 (GOAL: $7,500)
• South Atlantic: $3,098 (GOAL: $12,000)
• Texas: $5,620 (GOAL: $17,500)
• The Virginias: $1,130 (GOAL: $7,000)
• Western States: $1,698 (GOAL: $11,000)
• Other: $1,428 (contributions from individuals not associated with an AIA region, such as AIA National staff)
These goals were developed by the ArchiPAC Steering Committee as a way to more fully engage AIA members in the advocacy process. After the success of the ArchiPAC Regional Challenge in the last quarter of 2010, the Committee realized that tracking regional giving helped increase member participation. The goals announced in February are based on regional AIA membership as well as past giving history.
Although ArchiPAC raised just over $100,000 in 2010, reaching the $200,000 goal won't take as much as it sounds. As Jim Rains, AIA, 2011 ArchiPAC Chair, pointed out at the Grassroots Conference, "If only 10 percent--just 10 percent--of AIA members gave a dime a day, ArchiPAC would raise $292,000 this year." To help in this process, the ArchiPAC Steering Committee is revving up its efforts to fully develop a peer-to-peer network, which will share information about the importance of ArchiPAC and keep members up-to-date on the PAC's activities and efforts.
The House of Representatives will head home for a 12-day district work period starting March 18 to meet with constituents face-to-face to discuss important issues. With more in-district work weeks scheduled this year than ever before, AIA members have the chance to build deeper relationships with lawmakers and discuss the issues that matter to the profession.
Advocacy365 provides the AIA's Blueprint for Rebuilding Main Street and issue briefs from the 2011 AIA Grassroots Conference. While Congress has made progress on all four of the AIA's issues, there is plenty more to do:
To set-up an appointment with a member of Congress, contact the main district office of the legislator (this information can be accessed by visiting your member of Congress' web site at either www.senate.gov or www.house.gov). Ask for the scheduler and explain that your AIA chapter would like to meet with the representative during an upcoming congressional recess in order to get to know the representative and to present some key issues facing the AIA locally and across the country. More information on setting up appointments is available on Advocacy365.
Finally, please let the AIA know if you or your component was able to schedule a meeting. As always, send us any pictures and let us know how the meeting went.
For more information, contact Adam Melis, director, Advocacy Outreach.
The Angle Archive:
March 3, 2011
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.