Issues & AdvocacyFederal
With Budget Crisis Solved (For Now), Congress Gets Back To Work
By Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, Managing Director, Government Relations & Outreach
The federal government reopened on Thursday, hours after President Obama signed into law a bill that funds agencies until January 15 and raises the debt ceiling until February 7.
Although the final deal ends the more than two-week long shutdown and avoids the first ever federal government default on its debts, history may repeat itself in early 2014 when Congress confronts the next deadlines for keeping the government running. In the meantime, however, Congress and the White House are looking to put the budget crisis on the back burner and try to get work done on other issues.
President Obama has indicated that immigration reform is a top priority. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill last spring, while House committees have advanced several smaller bills that address various pieces of immigration policy.
Immigration is far from the only item on Congress’s agenda. There are numerous issues that policymakers hope to take up, many of which impact architects and the built environment.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the key items on Washington’s to do list:
Tax Policy. Several tax incentives – including the 179D energy efficient commercial building tax deduction – expire at the end of 2013 unless Congress passes legislation to extend them. At the same time, the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate are busy working on proposals to reform the tax code in its entirety. The AIA is leading a design and construction industry coalition urging Congress to extend and improve 179D and also ensure that any tax reform plans meet principles that will help the design and construction industry continue to thrive.
Sustainability. Shortly before the government shutdown crisis began, the Senate briefly took up legislation to promote energy efficiency. The Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill seeks to improve energy codes, help federal agencies make their buildings more energy efficient, and take other steps to reduce energy consumption in the built environment. The bill, though receiving strong bipartisan support, was sidelined by unrelated debates over Obamacare. Supporters of the bill hope to bring it up at some point in the near future. When they do, it is likely that an amendment will be offered to repeal the 2007 law that applies the 2030 sustainability targets to federal buildings. The AIA and its allies are working with supporters in the Senate on a competing amendment that would make common sense improvements to the law, but keep it in place.
Design Build Reform. In the house, several key committees are looking to advance legislation championed by the AIA and its allies that would make changes to federal design build laws that will make it easier for architecture firms to compete. The House Oversight and Government Reform committee is hoping to advance the bill before the end of 2014. The legislation, which has bipartisan support, is one of a relatively small number of bills that has a good chance of being enacted in the short-term.
Student Loan Debt. Even as the economy recovers, architecture school graduates are still facing massive debt, which is forcing many to leave the profession. The AIA, working with the American Institute of architecture students, is pushing legislation on Capitol Hill that will provide student loan debt relief to architecture graduates in exchange for pro bono work in underserved areas. As Congress continues to look to ways to shore up the fragile economy and help young people get jobs in a challenging market, the so-called National Design Services Act may be a key component of these efforts.
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