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The Angle

April 8, 2011 -- Special Edition
"The Shutdown" and Other Washington Updates
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Contact | Federal Relations | State Relations | Local Relations |Codes Advocacy | Communities by Design | Advocacy365

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In this issue:

    Washington Report

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Washington Report

As Government Shutdown Looms, AIA Provides Resources for Members
   

As White House and Congressional negotiators burn the midnight oil in search of a deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the day today, federal agencies are beginning to lay the groundwork for closing down and furloughing non-essential employees.

A government shutdown may affect architects and their firms in numerous ways, from the possible interruption of federal A/E contracts to the temporary cessation of small business and home mortgage loans. The AIA Federal Relations team has launched a resource page to provide members with up-to-date information on a shutdown and what it may mean for the profession.

Furthermore, if your firm and your work are impacted by the shutdown, the AIA wants to hear about it. Email your stories to govaffs@aia.org.

For real-time updates on the shutdown and the impact on architects and the architectural profession, follow the Federal Relations team on Twitter via @aialobbyist and @aiafedregs. And, of course, read upcoming issues of The Angle.

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Paperwork Elimination: An Important Victory
   

Even as the threat of a government shutdown loomed, Congress handed down an important victory for architects and businesses across the nation. In a bipartisan 87-12 vote Tuesday (April 5), the Senate passed an AIA-backed repeal of the burdensome 1099 paperwork mandate, sending it to the President for his signature.

The health care reform bill passed last year included a new paperwork requirement that had little to do with health care, but would have dramatically increased paperwork burdens on businesses. The provision stated that, starting in 2012, all business payments or purchases over $600 would need to be accompanied by a Form 1099 filing. The mandate would have disproportionately affected smaller firms, which faced mounting fees for tax preparation, or penalties for non-compliance.

This victory is celebrated by proponents of the 1099 repeal, including thousands of AIA members who contacted their members of Congress, and who have watched the issue languish for quite some time in the halls of Congress. Due to in-house fighting over how to pay for its estimated $19 billion price tag, numerous amendments and bills repealing the mandate fell to the wayside, failing to muster sufficient votes to pass.

However, recognizing that there was bipartisan support for repeal, in February, the House passed H.R. 4, the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011. The House bill offset the provision by making consumers repay all insurance subsidies under the newly enacted health care law once their income rises beyond 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

Despite dissent from Democrats, who called it a tax on the middle class, an amendment mirroring the language of H.R. 4 was added to current Senate small business legislation, and passed April 5.

Along with allied industries, businesses, and associations, the AIA called for the elimination of this requirement, and included it as one of four key issues members took to Capitol Hill during its Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in February. According to AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA, "In the current legislative environment, it's refreshing to see Congress able to agree on something as fundamentally positive to small businesses as repealing this onerous requirement."line

 
New Legislation Would Loosen Credit for Architects, Small Businesses
   

Responding to the call from architects and others to make credit more accessible, Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Scott Tipton (R-CO) introduced legislation this week to help architects and other small businesses get the capital they need to stay afloat in a difficult economic environment.

H.R. 1356, the Capital Access for Main Street (CAMS) Act, would allow small community banks to amortize some commercial real-estate loans over a seven-year period. The bill was a top priority for the AIA in the last Congress, and attendees at February's Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference pressed for the reintroduction of the bill.

Although there are signs of improvement in the general economy, commercial real-estate values are not likely to return to pre-crash levels any time soon. Under current law, small banks will struggle for several more years as bad loans come to term. The CAMS bill would provide these banks with time to manage these loans and free up capital to make new loans. Rep. Perlmutter, who sponsored the bill last session as well, describes it as a "responsible way to help small businesses weather the storm, set the foundation to rebuild our communities, and create the jobs we need to work our way back to prosperity."

This is particularly important in design and construction, which is a large portion of the American economy that has been hit hard by the recession. "Access to affordable credit continues to be the number one issue facing architects and the broader industry as we struggle to emerge from the economic downturn" said AIA President Clark Manus, FAIA. "We would like to thank Representatives Perlmutter, Coffman and Tipton for introducing this legislation and for continuing to make access to credit a priority issue."

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    For more information, please contact Cooper Martin, manager, Federal Research and Policy Development.

Small Business Size Standards: AIA Seeks Input
   

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has proposed new size standards for what defines an architecture small business, leading to potentially large impacts on many design firms across the country.

The SBA has said that they are trying to simplify the regulatory process and combine what they consider to be similar professions into a single standard. The SBA is proposing to change the size standards for architecture firms from $4.5 million in annual net revenue to $19 million. As of 2009, just over 90 percent of architecture firms qualified as an SBA small business under the $4.5 million threshold based on their billings. Under a $19 million standard, that percentage would rise to nearly 98 percent.

The SBA is accepting public comments on their proposed rule until May 16.The AIA also seeks input from its members about the impact of these proposed changes. Members can comment at the AIA's LinkedIn or Facebook sites to get the conversation started. The AIA also has launched a resource page on the SBA proposal, on which you can find additional information, data, and instructions on submitting comments directly to the SBA.

 

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The Angle Archive:

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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