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Michigan Scores Big Win on Professional Encroachment

By Bryan J. Soukup, Esq., Manager of State and Local Government Relations and Benedetto Tiseo, FAIA, NCARB, AIA Michigan

A Win in Michigan!

In June, Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) signed into law an act to eliminate legislative protection for the interior design profession, which had been in effect since 1998. Public Act 193 of 2014 repeals Section 601.a of the Michigan Occupational Code which established an advisory subcommittee to review qualifications for licensure, allowed for certification of interior designers, and enabled interior designers to stamp documents. The deregulation measure enjoyed considerable support as it was approved by a vote of 102 to 6 in the Michigan House and 27 to 10 in the Senate.

From the Component:

Michigan has been dealing with interior designers encroaching on the practice of architecture since the 1980’s. In 1985 the Coalition for Interior Design Registration (CIDR) was formed for the sole purpose of achieving full practice licensing for interior designers in the State.

In the early 1990’s, CIDR mounted an aggressive campaign to push legislation to license interior designers. As a result, AIA Michigan executive leadership and CIDR reached a compromise that changed the law (Section 601a) in 1998. The new law defined “interior designer”, set up a seven member subcommittee to examine qualifications of interior designers, and allowed interior designers to obtain a “square seal” with their name and the title “Interior Designer”. Needless to say, this caused considerable confusion in Michigan. Fortunately, logic prevailed and, after numerous attempts, Building Officials refused to allow Interior designers to legally submit sealed drawings for permits.

In 2010, Michigan elected a successful Republican businessman as Governor. His promise was to streamline state government, make it more business friendly, and strike unnecessary regulations.

Shortly after taking office he set up the Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR) with the task of examining the Michigan Government with the goal of making recommendations on implementation of his campaign promises. On April 16, 2012, ORR released the following recommendation notice to Deregulate 18 occupations:

    "The Advisory Rules Committee carefully considered the public health and safety benefits of 87 different occupations. We found that there were at least 18 occupations that did not require regulation. These regulations provide little or no significant protection to the public," said Shelly Edgerton, Deputy Director of LARA. "In addition, we found that there is ample opportunity to streamline Michigan's licensing processes. These recommendations will reduce the size and cost of government and lead to better customer service for licensees."

The Advisory Rules Committee was very deliberate in weighing the public health and safety implications of deregulation," said Roger Newton, Founder, President, and CEO of Esperion Therapeutics, Inc. in Plymouth. MI. "I think these recommendations create a more business-friendly environment and eliminate unnecessary government oversight that does not provide any value to the citizens of Michigan."

"The Advisory Rules Committee was very serious in its considerations about whether certain occupational licensing regulation provides consumer protection." Rose Baran, Assistant Professor at Ferris State University. "We found a number of occupational regulations that simply did not provide enough benefit to justify devoting taxpayer dollars for administration of these programs."

One of the occupations recommended for deregulation was Interior Design. Then, on March 6, 2013, a bill was introduced to repeal Section 601a, which gave Interior designers legal standing since 1998. After a little more than a year, the governor signed the bill on June 21, 2014.

Given that this law is so new, I cannot predict its effect on the architectural community; however, according to AIA Michigan’s Government Affairs Committee, it will be one less issue requiring valuable time and resources.

A word of caution, I believe the war is not over, this only means this battle is done. I also believe Interior Designers will be back lobbying for new licensing legislation in the near future. Given the high probability that our governor will be reelected in the fall for another four year term, it is highly doubtful he would stand idly by if they again seek licensing.

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This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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