Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
June 23, 2011
New historic preservation tax breaks coming down the pike? Higher debt ceiling without cutting spending? Tennessee components beat back challenge to QBS. Grant funding available for innovative advocacy programs. Architects giving for public affairs purposes surpasses records, but more can be done. All this -- and more -- in this edition of The ANGLE.
In this issue:
State and Local Update
AIA Members Getting Involved
Congressional backers of historic preservation are planning to introduce two bills in the House of Representatives today that will dramatically expand the use of the historic preservation tax credit to help revitalize both commercial and residential buildings.
Reps. Michael Turner (R-OH) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO) are planning to introduce the "Historic Homeownership Revitalization Act," which would create an incentive for homeowners similar to the one for historic commercial buildings. The bill would create a 20 percent tax credit (up to $60,000) for homeowners who make improvements to a principal residence in a registered historic district. The credit would also be available for developers who rehabilitate homes and sell them to individuals as their principal residence.
In addition, Reps. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) will introduce the "Creating American Prosperity Through Preservation Act." This bill would make the existing historic tax credit easier to use for reinvesting in communities where economic development is needed the most. The bill would expand and extend the existing Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit for smaller, Main Street projects under $5 million. It would specify that the incentive for older, non-designated buildings worthy of preservation apply to buildings 50 years old or older, and it would make it easier for non-profits to use the tax credit. It also would promote energy efficiency in historic projects by increasing the credit if the design reduces energy consumption.
According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "the historic tax credit alone has rehabilitated over 37,000 vacant or underutilized historic buildings, generated over 2 million jobs, and leveraged $58 billion in private investment through saving America's historic places." The two bills are intended to expand the programs reach into residential structures and to make it available for more commercial buildings.
The AIA has urged its members to contact their House representatives to ask them to cosponsor the bills. Sample letters are available in the AIA Advocacy Center.
For more information, contact Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, senior director, Federal Relations.
Last month, the federal debt hit the $14.3 trillion legal limit, which means the U.S. can no longer borrow money to cover costs until either that ceiling is raised, the deficit is reduced, or a combination of both. Since May, Treasury has been paying the country's bills with cash on hand and "creative" account management. However, come August 2, Treasury has indicated that it will no longer be able to manage its accounts this way, and the U.S. credit rating will be in jeopardy.
Many economists assert that even a brief blemish on the U.S. credit rating would create doubt in the country's ability to pay its debts, and fear that U.S. will default on payments. Because U.S. Treasury bonds are held around the world, and are considered nearly as safe as cash, a U.S. default would create what some call an economic catastrophe, far worse than any economic downturn of late.
Despite the very serious projected consequences, Congress has emphatically refused to raise the debt ceiling without also cutting spending. An overwhelming vote against a so-called "clean" debt ceiling increase last month in the House raised pressure on a bipartisan group of lawmakers who are working with Vice President Biden to craft a deal to increase the debt ceiling while reducing the deficit.
These negotiators have targeted July 1 as a deadline for reaching a deal that could clear the way for increasing the current-law debt limit of $14.9 trillion. In those talks, Republicans have insisted that every dollar of debt limit increase be matched by an equal amount of annual budget spending reduction. Democratic negotiators have not endorsed this approach, but have agreed that any debt limit increase must be accompanied by deficit reduction.
There has been no indication, thus far, of some of the cuts that will be made, but Vice President Biden has said he is "convinced" they will be able to reach an agreement on a deficit reduction plan that leads to $4 trillion in savings over 10 to 12 years. Although negotiators have said that they are making progress, there remain fundamental disagreements over revenue-raisers in the deal. Republicans so far have maintained a hard line refusal to consider tax increases, while Democrats have insisted that the package should incorporate spending cuts and revenue raising measures, like closing tax loopholes for large corporations.
Until details of the plan are released, it is very difficult to determine its impact on architects. However, the AIA will continue to monitor the negotiations for any impact on the design and construction industry.
For more information, contact Christina Finkenhofer, manager, Federal Relations.
The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) has unveiled plans from five architecture and landscape architecture firms to improve the design of security components and improve the visitor experience at President's Park South, located adjacent to the White House. NCPC has invited the public to view the proposals online and at the White House Visitor Center between June 21 and June 27.
On June 28, NCPC will host a public showcase where representatives from the five firms will present their concepts. All public opinions will be shared with NCPC's Interagency Security Task Force, which will rank the finalists and announce the competition winner July 7.
As state and local governments look to cut costs in the face of distressed public budgets, government officials in pursuit of savings continue to turn their attention to Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) practices. AIA Tennessee and AIA Middle Tennessee faced such a situation this month, when several members of the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County sponsored a resolution that would have paved the way for fee based procurement of architectural services. The resolution called for the county's delegation to request that the Tennessee legislature introduce a bill to change state law as to allow local governments to award contracts to the lowest bidder, effectively ending QBS in Tennessee.
A coalition of members and staff from both AIA Tennessee and AIA Middle Tennessee moved quickly against the resolution, urging members to contact Metropolitan Councilors and sending representatives to meet with the resolution's author to educate him on the drawbacks and hidden costs of fee based selection. These tactics were successful, as the author agreed to shelve the resolution indefinitely.
AIA anticipates that efforts to do away with QBS-related statues and/or regulations will pop up throughout the country as cash-strapped governments scour their budgets for possible savings. AIA components should be on alert for such efforts. AIA's State Relations and Local Relations teams are available to assist your response by providing talking points, issue briefs, or other guidance.
The June 16 edition of Close Relations features advocacy news state components can use from Tennessee (see above), New York State, Massachusetts, and Texas. For additional information, please contact Chris Merriam, manager, State Issues and Programs.
The AIA Center for Civic Leadership has announced the 2011 Component Assistance Grant Program, through which components are eligible to receive up to $2,000 to support programming that encourages leadership development among their members. With over 1,250 civically engaged architects nationwide, this grant program enables architects to pursue leadership roles in order to help guide and implement public policies that ensure healthy, livable, sustainable, and quality designed built environments for future generations.
Applications (for which the deadline has been extended to September 15, 2011) should include a specific plan, project timeline, and documentation regarding how the grant will be used. Particular consideration will be given to initiatives that are replicable by other components and to those that have a long-term benefit to the component, the profession and the community. Applications focused on assisting emerging professionals, as well as those that will potentially impact the largest number of members, will also receive priority. Components receiving grant funding will have until May 2012 to complete their proposed projects.
For more information, contact Vanessa Leon, manager, Local Relations.
Citizen Architect on the Move highlights architects who are involved with their communities on a civic level, discussing the interplay between civic engagement and architectural practice, explaining the value and influence of the AIA in getting architects involved, and examining the roles of architects in politics. In the latest podcast we interviewed Peter L. Heimbach, Jr., AIA.
Heimbach, the newly appointed Assistant Commissioner of Real Property Administration for the State of Tennessee, has been civically engaged for much of his career and is a strong advocate for the profession. He has held many leadership roles in AIA Tennessee, including President of AIA Northeast Tennessee; has been the Volunteer State's State Government Network (SGN) representative since 2005; and currently serves on AIA National's Board Advocacy Committee.
Before moving to his new role in state government earlier this year, Heimbach had spent the previous 13 years as a project manager for Beeson, Lusk and Street, Inc., Architects.
AIA Regions Make Progress Toward Fundraising Goals
Despite the difficult economic period for architects over the last several years, AIA member involvement in ArchiPAC, the AIA's only federal political action committee, is up nearly 100 percent in the last three years. In the first half of 2011 alone, more than 840 individuals have contributed to ArchiPAC, raising more than $80,500. However, with just one percent of AIA members contributing and a goal of raising $200,000 in 2011, there is still a long way to go.
If AIA members join forces to raise $200,000 this year, it will be the best year in ArchiPAC's more-than-30-year history. Founded in 1980, ArchiPAC is the mechanism through which AIA members make voluntary contributions (outside of AIA dues) to support the candidates for office that work on the issues that are of the most importance to the profession. ArchiPAC allows architects a way to be more proactive by getting in front of officials so that AIA members are involved in the conversations that affect the profession. That way, decisions made will be made with the voice of architects heard loud and clear by the nation's legislators.
The ArchiPAC Steering Committee, comprised of seven volunteer AIA members and chaired by James E. Rains, Jr., AIA, the AIA Regional Director from the South Atlantic Region, drives both the fundraising and contribution efforts of the PAC. Looking at committee assignments, issue priorities, and relationships with our members at the local and state level, the committee makes sure that the AIA member contributions are well-spent. This year, the committee has focused on educating architects about the importance of having an active political presence and increasing peer-to-peer engagement, including ensuring that as many ArchiPAC candidate contributions are delivered to the candidates by AIA members.
The ArchiPAC Steering Committee also introduced goals for each of the 18 AIA regions for the first time this year. As of June 20, two AIA regions -- Texas and New Jersey -- had surpassed 50 percent of their total goal for the year, with several regions not far behind. The goals were based on percentage of AIA members in each region as well as past giving history to ArchiPAC. The current standings of the AIA regions, in order of percentage of goal achieved are:
1. Texas -- 62.2 percent ($10,878 raised of $17,500 goal)
2. New Jersey -- 52.6 percent ($3,418 raised of $6,500 goal)
3. Gulf States -- 49.2 percent ($6,648 raised of $13,500 goal)
4. Ohio Valley -- 46.8 percent ($4,682 raised of $10,000 goal)
5. South Atlantic -- 46.1 percent ($5,532 raised of $12,000 goal)
6. Western States -- 44.5 percent ($4,889 raised of $11,000 goal)
7. Florida & Caribbean -- 41.3 percent ($4,129 raised of $10,000 goal)
8. California -- 40.7 percent ($8,140 raised of $20,000 goal)
9. Pennsylvania -- 36.3 percent ($2,720 raised of $7,500 goal)
10. New York -- 35.4 percent ($6,203 raised of $17,500 goal)
11. Michigan -- 32.4 percent ($1,134 raised of $3,500 goal)
12. Illinois -- 32.1 percent ($3,213 raised of $10,000 goal)
13. Central States -- 30.6 percent ($3,055 raised of $10,000 goal)
14. New England -- 29.1 percent ($3,486 raised of $12,000 goal)
15. Northwest & Pacific -- 28.4 percent ($3,411 raised of $12,000 goal)
16. Middle Atlantic -- 24.8 percent ($2,476 raised of $10,000 goal)
17. The Virginias -- 22.6 percent ($1,579 raised of $7,000 goal)
18. North Central States -- 21.3 percent ($2,133 raised of $10,000 goal)
The ArchiPAC Steering Committee continues to recognize 2011 donors on the ArchiPAC website and provide updated information on the regional fundraising efforts and other ArchiPAC activities.
The Angle Archive:
June 9, 2011
May 26, 2011
May 19, 2011 -- Convention 2011 Recap
April 28, 2011
April 14, 2011
April 8, 2011 -- Special Edition
March 31, 2011
March 17, 2011
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
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