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The Angle

April 14, 2011
Shutdown averted, but what do you think about tax reform? Have any comments for SBA about small-business size provisions? Interior design deregulation heats up in Florida, as does discussion on North Carolina liability reform. What's up with ArchiPAC -- and more in this edition of The ANGLE.
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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

    State and Local Update

    AIA Members Getting Involved

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Washington Report

Congress, White House Strike Budget Deal
   

Negotiators struck a deal to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year late Friday night, narrowly averting a government shutdown (see last week's special edition of The Angle) and setting up larger showdowns over spending and deficits.

President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) signed off on the deal at 10:30 pm Friday night, 90 minutes before federal agencies would have to close their doors. The deal included another short-term funding bill to keep the government open through tomorrow (April 15) as well as a plan to fund the government through September 30.

The agreement (read a summary thereof by clicking here) would reduce spending by $39 billion from the previous year's levels, and curtailed spending at nearly every agency except the Defense Department. Among the spending cuts were many that affect the built environment, including:

    • a 73 percent cut in GSA's construction and renovation programs;

    • a 20 percent cut for transit programs at the Department of Transportation;

    • a 16 percent reduction in Community Development Block Grants;

    • a 19 percent cut to HUD's Public Housing Capital Fund;

    • a 16 percent cut to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and

    • elimination of Fiscal 2011 funding for high-speed rail.

One area that saw a small reprieve was the budget for the Architect of the Capitol. Following concerns raised by the AIA and others that the cuts would endanger the historic fabric of the Capitol and prevent needed repair work, lawmakers restored about half of the Architect's money that had been cut in an earlier House bill.

The deal did not satisfy everyone. Many liberal Democrats complained that the cuts were too deep and would hurt the country's most vulnerable. Conservative Republicans, including many Tea Party-backed members, argued that the cuts, amounting to only four percent of the federal budget, were too small.

The House and Senate are expected to pass the budget by the end of this week. Next up for Congress and the White House is a debate over raising the ceiling on the amount of debt the government can issue to pay its expenditures, with many in Congress arguing that a debt ceiling increase must be accompanied by more spending cuts. In an opening salvo of the coming budget wars, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a budget plan last week that would cut spending by $6 trillion over the next decade and restructure Medicare and Medicaid.

The president has responded to Ryan's plan with a deficit reduction plan of his own. Unveiled Wednesday, the plan would lower the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years through a combination of spending cuts and by canceling the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on the highest earners.

Stay tuned to The Angle for coverage of the budget debates.

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Join Debate on Tax Reform

AIA Launches Online Conversation about Implications of Reforming Tax Code

   

With another April 15 upon us, and with debates over deficits and government spending heating up, policymakers in Washington are more serious than ever about reforming the U.S. tax code. It's been a quarter of a century since Congress last tried to make taxes simpler and fairer. Since then, instead, the tax code has only grown larger and more complex.

Tax reform is a debate that affects every American, and architects and their firms have a lot to gain (or lose) in the process. Will business tax rates be reduced? Will tax incentives like the mortgage interest deduction be eliminated? What will happen to S corporations? It's a debate you cannot afford to sit out.

That is why the AIA is launching an online conversation about tax reform (members only, login required), so that members like you can make your voice heard. Tell us what you think about the tax structure, what you want fixed and what you want lawmakers to protect. As the debate heats up, the AIA will provide additional resources about what the key players are saying, and how their plans may affect architects, their firms and their clients.

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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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State Department to Announce Design Excellence Program
   

Two years after the AIA first proposed it -- and a year after the State Department endorsed the concept -- the Department's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) will unveil its design excellence program for embassies.

In 2008, OBO commissioned the AIA to create a task force to examine embassy design. In response, the AIA formed the 21st-Century Embassy Task Force, made up of leading architects, engineers, landscape architects, ambassadors, diplomats, Foreign Service personnel, architectural historians, public art experts, and key members of OBO. This group released a report, Design for Diplomacy, in 2009, which made a series of recommendations aimed to improve the way embassies are designed and to ensure the integration of all functional goals including safety and security, aesthetics, energy efficiency, sustainability, flexibility of functions and work spaces, accessibility, historic preservation and user productivity. These recommendations served as the foundation for this new program.

OBO will announce and detail its program during the Industry Advisory Panel meeting currently scheduled for April 26 and they welcome all interested parties to attend. To register, please click here.

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    For more information, contact Billie Kaumaya, manager, Federal Relations.

State and Local Update

Around the Horn

AIA State Relations Update

   

A bill which would protect architects and other design professionals in North Carolina from frivolous lawsuits has been referred to that state's Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 435 would require plaintiffs to file a certificate of merit in cases of civil litigation against architects, engineers, and design firms. In order for a lawsuit to be heard, the plaintiff must file an affidavit from a third-party design professional attesting to the merit of the claim.

* * *

Florida HB 5005, sponsored by Representative Dorothy Hukill (R-Port Orange), passed the House 77-38 April 7. If enacted, the bill would deregulate 20 different professions, including interior design. Earlier in the week, Representative Ron Saunders (D-Key West) introduced an amendment that would have removed interior designers from the deregulation bill. The amendment, which had the backing of interior designers (who arrived at the Capitol en masse to oppose the bill), was defeated 76-41 April 4.

[Editor's note: Please check out upcoming issues of The Wall Street Journal as Paul Mendelsohn, vice president, Government and Community Relations, was interviewed April 13 for the Institute's perspective on HB 5005. Also follow Mendelsohn {@AIA_Advocacy} and AIA State Relations {@AIA_StRelations} on Twitter for the latest on this story.]

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The Hawaii Senate passed HB 793 SD1 by an 18-7 vote April 12. HB 793 SD 1 is similar to a bill that was recently put on hold by the Hawaii Senate Economic Development and Technology Committee. The bill does away with the general excise tax exemption for contractors, including architects and engineers until 2015. The bill, which was strongly opposed by AIA Hawaii Council and allied construction and engineering professionals, threatens the struggling design and construction industries, as well as the state's still fragile economic recovery.

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    For more information, contact Chris Merriam, manager, State Issues and Programs.

Citizen Architect Directory Now Available for Chapters
   

The primary goal of the Citizen Architect program is to promote civic engagement and to support members who are engaged and in the public realm. In order to support these members, the AIA has conducted two surveys since 2008 that have allowed us to identify Citizen Architects across the country. This information allows the Local Relations team to provide those members with specific support and resources for their civic engagement.

A Citizen Architect Directory has now been created within the netFORUM database. This database includes all of the information provided to AIA National by the local Chapters and allows AIA components to track which members are serving their communities as well as the role that they are serving. The Citizen Architect Directory is crucial to building the strength of the Citizen Architect program.

Once a Citizen Architect has been identified within chapter membership, individual AIA Chapters can now log into netFORUM and provide details regarding the position that member is operating in, whether the position is elected or appointed, the type of committee they are serving on and more. The robustness of this directory enables AIA National to observe civic engagement trends within the membership. The ability to detect patterns, such as that of the 1,250 Citizen Architect members serving in public roles, the majority are on zoning and planning commissions, will help inform the resources that we can deliver to Citizen Architects nationwide.

To access the Citizen Architect Directory, netFORUM users can search for a specific member and then identify the "AIA Citizen Architect Directory" tab that appears at the bottom of that individual record. If the member is a Citizen Architect, the tab can be expanded in order to include the relevant information.

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    For more information, contact Vanessa Leon, manager, Local Relations.

 

AIA Members Getting Involved

AIA Members Continue to Recognize Importance of ArchiPAC

ArchiPAC Steering Committee Recognizes Donors

   

With a nearly 20 percent increase in the number of AIA members investing in ArchiPAC this year over the same time last year, it is clear that more architects are recognizing the value of political engagement. More than 500 AIA members and staff have made an investment in 2011, but that still only represents little more than one half of one percent of total AIA membership. Even so, ArchiPAC hit the $50,000 fundraising mark by the end of the first quarter of the year, which means that the PAC is on track to reach its $200,000 goal by the end of 2011. Broken down per member, this goal translates into just $2.50 per AIA member.

At the 2011 Grassroots Conference, ArchiPAC announced the $200,000 goal while also announcing new fundraising goals for each AIA region. Many regions got off to a great start at Grassroots and AIA leaders continue to spread the word to their membership on this important advocacy activity, which allows the AIA to act through one voice in supporting candidates for federal office that understand the AIA's position on issues affecting the built environment, our profession, our communities, and our practices.

However, a strong ArchiPAC is not possible without the contributions of AIA members and staff. AIA dues cannot be used for political activities, as per federal law. As such, ArchiPAC runs solely on voluntary contributions, all of which go to candidates that have been reviewed and approved by the ArchiPAC Steering Committee. The ArchiPAC Steering Committee is now recognizing these ArchiPAC "investors" on the ArchiPAC website.

For more information on ArchiPAC, visit its website or review its 2010 Annual Report.

 

    For questions, or to learn more about the peer-to-peer program or the regional goals, contact Hannah Wesolowski, manager, Political Programs.

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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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