tl;dr: Historic Tax Credits are capped for 2 years, Construction Management has some new rules; Give to the PAC.
Like so much in the political scene these days, the 2017 General Assembly session has been a bit unusual. As the session came to a close a few days ago, here’s where things ended up.
Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits
It was a wild ride. What started last summer with a subcommittee evaluating the effectiveness of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, suddenly became a surprise $5M/tax payer cap in the Governor’s budget, and finally culminated in legislation that would have eliminated the tax credit altogether. With help from members, a coalition of supporters, and even Virginia’s first lady, we managed to walk the elimination back to the $5M/tax payer cap with a 2-year sunset. This result is certainly not what we hoped for at the beginning of the session, but we’ve managed to preserve the credit (for now).
We’ll be working between sessions to evaluate and share the results of several studies underway and to educate legislators about the benefits of the credit.
Issues surrounding public procurement usually take the bulk of our time, but this year we didn’t have quite as many battles to fight in this arena. We kept a close watch on a number of bills but stayed out the fray for the most part as other entities duked it out.
HB1693 has passed and is waiting on the governor’s signature. In contracts for architectural and engineering services relating to multiple construction projects, this bill increased the fee for any single project from $100,000 to $150,000.
SB1508 added language to include certain school divisions under the exception from the $100,000 single-project fee limit for architectural and professional engineering term contracts and the $ 1 million annual aggregate total of all such projects. Under the bill, the school divisions may pay a single-project fee of up to $2.5 million and an annual aggregate of $6 million. Certain localities already enjoy this exception.
There was some movement on the definition of small businesses, though minor. HB1858 would allow for SWaM businesses certified at the federal level (or some other certification process comparable to Virginia’s) to be certified in the Commonwealth. I include this under the procurement category because we’ve been watching small business definitions carefully. If Virginia’s small business definition for architecture firms changes, it could have a substantial impact on Qualifications Based Selection because of Executive Order 20 and its requirement to exceed an expenditure goal of 42% with small businesses.
Lots of bills that could impact the regulatory environment showed up this year. They fell primarily into 2 different categories — legislation related to the Administrative Process Act and legislation related to regulatory boards.
Administrative Process Act
These bills were mostly aimed at reducing regulatory burden.
HB1731 requires the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules (on a yet-to-be-determined schedule) to conduct an ongoing review of the exemptions authorized by the Administrative Process Act.
HB1790 requires agencies to develop regulations in the least burdensome and intrusive manner possible. The bill calls for each agency to establish a schedule that provides for the annual review of at least 10 percent of an agency’s regulations.
SJ295 grants to the General Assembly the authority to review any administrative rule to ensure it is consistent with the legislative intent.
Of all the bills related to the Regulatory Board that we were monitoring, none passed except for SB1374 which added an engineer to the board for contractors. The handful of bills that would have provided some additional oversight for the board all died. The bill that would have deregulated Landscape Architects and Certified Interior Designers failed, as did proposed regulation of land surveyor photogrammetrists.
I hope you’ll join me in thanking Kenney Payne, AIA; Lynden Garland, AIA; Robert Burns, AIA and Ed Gillikin, AIA, who gave countless hours in support of our efforts. In addition, our friends with ACEC Virginia, the AIA Virginia Government Affairs Advisory Council and GIA Committee, and our legislative counsel with Williams Mullen were invaluable.
Obligatory PAC Appeal
No session wrap-up would be complete without an appeal to support the AIA Virginia PAC.
Our policy makers and politicians are stewards of our built infrastructure. They make decisions about the built world everyday — from funding, to planning, to preserving, to demolition — but most of them aren’t experts in design and planning. PAC money doesn’t buy influence, but it DOES help us get a seat at the table, so we can educate policy-makers on issues that are important to us. Give to the PAC today.