Grassroots Advocacy AIA Northwest Wisconsin Style
AIA Northwest Wisconsin hosted an informal early-morning meeting with State Representative Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) to learn about the State Building Commission and other legislative topics of interest to architects. Members gathered at the Lunda Center on the Western Technical College campus to enjoy some good coffee and conversation.
2018 President Loren Anderson, AIA, welcomed everyone and reviewed plans for upcoming local section programs and activities. For example, the twice-a-month ARE study sessions for Associate AIA members in Milwaukee are broadcast to satellite sites, including River Architects in La Crosse.
Rep. Billings reviewed her path to the Wisconsin Assembly, where she has represented the 95th district for the past seven years. A member of eight standing committees as well as several other special committees, she recently was appointed to the State Building Commission and is a member of its Higher Education Subcommittee.
After outlining the structure of the Building Commission, Rep. Billings noted that the state has over 6,000 buildings, with about 60% of these facilities on UW campuses and most over 30 years old. The result is that the state building program involves a lot of renovation and utility projects. She outlined the planning and multi-year process involved before a building project is approved for enumeration as part of the state capital budget.
Prompted by President Anderson’s question about how architects can get involved in state building projects, members discussed the state qualifications-based selection process and examples of collaborating with another firm to pursue larger state building projects.
Rep. Billings noted that there is strong bipartisan support for legislation that would streamline the state building program by increasing various dollar thresholds. AIA Wisconsin supports this proposal – Assembly Bill 675 – that passed unanimously in the Wisconsin Assembly.
In addition, Rep. Billings recognized AIA Wisconsin’s support for state historic tax credits, commenting that historic rehabilitation projects have contributed significantly to the redevelopment of La Crosse. Proposed legislation – Assembly Bill 793 – to increase the limit on historic tax credit awards is attracting strong bipartisan support.
During the discussion, AIA Northwest Wisconsin members mentioned the state plan review process and the value of reducing the time required.
In concluding the session, President Anderson thanked Rep. Billings for sharing her insights and encouraged her to keep reaching out to AIA members as a resource on design and construction issues. Allowing that he previously served on the County Board, he encouraged architects to become more involved in community service and advocate for the profession.