An Advocacy Coda: Lessons Learned

Recently, and more than once, I was asked what lessons I had learned through the experience of our advocacy efforts during the recent General Assembly session. Excellent questions should not remain unanswered. My response is the following:

  1. No surprises
  2. There are no permanent adversaries
  3. Identify the opposition

A little more on each of those…

No surprises: Nobody appreciates being surprised; in real time, notoriously. Positions can and do change; they evolve, they often depend on specific circumstances, and circumstances are likewise prone to change. People understand that. But it is not fair to ask that they understand something that has changed from what they last were told, or worse yet, something that was willfully concealed. If you have made someone aware of your position – and you should never withhold a position if it is inquired after – and that position has changed from what you told them previously, you owe it to them to communicate that change.

There are no permanent adversaries: Those who are not with us are against us – kind of. Not so much actually. And even with those who may be staunch adversaries on one matter, we may be able to find a common interest on another. Best to remain opportunistic. A related maxim: there are no permanent victories. Best to remain vigilant.

Identify the opposition: It is important to identify, and recognize, those who oppose, or might oppose, your position; in advance, candidly. This information should be offered freely, along with a summary of the issue and your position. And this is best done pre-emptively: if you can offer this information before the other party inquires, so much the better. This offers the other party a chance to better understand what they are getting into.

I reckon those as three of the most impactful lessons that I learned; or had confirmed. I expect that learning to continue.

Paul Battaglia, AIA
Executive Vice President

P.S. An update on the results of the 2024 General Assembly session will be highlighted during an Advocacy Town Hall Meeting via Zoom from 3-4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24. 1 LU (pending). Register here>>

Advocacy Update: at (very close to) the End of the General Assembly Session

Some rapid-fire updates on advocacy efforts…

An Advocacy Summit was held on Thursday, March 14. We spent the time reviewing our activities and discussing how we can more effectively pursue our interests at both the State and Federal levels. Thanks to all who participated. The fruit of those discussions will begin to emerge shortly.

Some of those opportunities to engage, along with an update on the results of the General Assembly session, will be highlighted during an Advocacy Town Hall Meeting via Zoom from 3-4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24. 1 LU (pending) Register here>>

The Joint Legislative Committee (the JLC; composed of members from AIA Virginia and ACEC Virginia) did a great job marshaling the bills. We’ll review the outcome more fully during the Advocacy Town Hall. But here are some bills that we supported, have passed, and are due to become law on July 1, 2024:

  • Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits (HB 960, SB 556): increases the maximum credit per year from $5M to $7.5M (without establishing an annual cap on the overall program)
  • Single Stair Study (HB 368, SB 195): directs DHCD to convene an advisory group to study the possibility of allowing Group R-2 occupancies to be served by a single exit in buildings not more than six stories above the grade plane
  • APELSCIDLA Quorum (HB 350): lowers the quorum requirement of the Board so that the progress of the Board is impeded less frequently

No advocacy update would be complete without a request to support the AIA Virginia PAC. Contributions can be made here  

Advocacy Update; the Virginia General Assembly

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. And we still have eggs, rather than chickens – with one exception. But the soprano is beginning to hum her scales.

The Virginia General Assembly adjourned sine die on 9 March 2024.  Gratitude is due to the members of the JLC; Rebecca Aarons-Sydnor, Assoc AIA, Ed Gillikin, AIA, Lauren Sughrue, Assoc AIA, and Stephen Weisensale, AIA, the delegation from ACEC Virginia, and our faithful partner and counsel Patrick Cushing, Esq. Additional gratitude to those who asked questions and shared your expertise and perspective along the way.

The bills that have passed are now being considered by the Governor; who may either sign them into law, amend them, or veto them. While the Governor issued a statement to say “[t]hank you to all 140 legislators that made the huge commitment, sacrificing time away from their families, their careers and their livelihoods, to serve the Commonwealth and all Virginians,” he added “[t]he General Assembly sent me more than a thousand bills plus backward budgets that need a lot of work. We’re going to have a busy 30 days going into the reconvene session.” That reconvene session would run 17 to 24 April. So we shall see.

Some notes on a few of the bills we were tracking more closely…

We (lightly) opposed SB409. This bill sought to allow a locality to adopt more stringent energy efficiency and climate requirements. And these are generally good things. But it sought to do so through a legislative rather than a more appropriate regulatory process, and, as a “stretch code,” it ran contrary to the uniformity of the Uniform Statewide Building Code. The bill failed in committee before crossover.

We supported several bills that preserve and promote the historic integrity of the built environment.  HB1415 allowed for the adoption of a civil penalty for the razing, demolition, or moving of a building or structure that is located in a historic district or that has been designated by a governing body as a historic structure or landmark. HB1395 provided that the filing of a historic designation application shall keep a locality from issuing any permit to raze or demolish a proposed historic landmark, building, or structure.  HB960 and SB556 proposed an increase to the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HRTC). After some minor drama, the amended versions of the bills increase the HRTC from $5M to $7.5M without adding a cap to the overall program. These bills have all passed and await action by the Governor.

You may recall the workgroup that was conducted over the summer to contemplate recommendations to procurement law concerning the CMAR delivery method.  In response to those recommendations, a number of bills were filed.  HB1108 and SB18 contained the least undesirable of those proposals. We supported those bills early in the session and then monitored developments as the coalition strained and became more fragile. Ultimately, the coalition held and those bills passed. They await action by the Governor.

HB368 and SB195 directs the Board of Housing and Community Development to convene a stakeholder advisory group, including firefighting professionals, to evaluate and recommend revisions to the Uniform Statewide Building Code to permit Group R-2 occupancies to be served by a single exit, provided that the building has not more than six stories above grade plane. We supported these bills and have lobbied to have an architect included in the advisory group. These bills have passed and await action by the Governor.

We also supported two bills that proposed changes to our regulatory boards; DPOR and APESLCIDLA.  HB350 reduced the quorum required to continue to conduct the progress of the board; an unfortunate but recurring issue. This bill passed and awaits the Governor’s signature. HB120 permits a distinction amongst the actions of the board such that certain suspensions, such as bouncing a check when renewing a license, are not bluntly reported as a disciplinary action – which could be construed as a more serious and substantial violation. That bill has been signed by the Governor and is now law; effective 1 July 2024.

Our role in defeating the NOIRA that sought to reduce regulations in the Building Code by twenty-five percent can also be numbered among our achievements.

We were afforded a particular opportunity when we were asked to participate in a meeting of the NOVA caucus. We were included in a panel to discuss affordable housing. I am grateful to the members who provided their expertise and experience so graciously – and on short notice – and learned me up so I could give voice to our positions and perspectives.

All in all – a good outing [so far]. Thanks to all who contributed; both directly and indirectly. Make your donation today at

Advocacy Update

The gears of government are turning and our advocacy efforts are making a difference.

At the federal level, you likely heard that HR7024 passed. That omnibus tax bill addresses many issues, including the current requirement that Research & Development (R&D) expenditures be amortized over five years. The proposed legislation allows taxpayers to take the full credit for R&D expenses in the year they are incurred, retroactive to 2022 and through 2025. Many thanks to the firms and members that answered the call to engage and asked your Representative to support the legislation. One hurdle crossed. On to the Senate; where the Resolution is likely to need help. Stay vigilant.

Here in Virginia…

You might have heard about the effort to reopen the 2021 Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code pursuant to the recent Notice of Intended Regulatory Action (NOIRA) for the purpose of complying with Executive Orders One and 19 (2022). Executive Directive Number One (2022), directs Executive Branch entities under the authority of the Governor “…to initiate regulatory processes to reduce by at least 25 percent the number of regulations not mandated by federal or state statute, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, and in a manner consistent with the laws of the Commonwealth”.  Executive Order 19 (2022) requires every regulatory agency “to review all existing regulations…to reduce the overall regulatory burden on the public.” AIA Virginia was one of 33 signatories to a letter voicing opposition to the proposal to apply these requirements to the Building Code. During its meeting on Wednesday 31 January 2024, the Board of Housing and Community Development voted against reopening the 2021 code cycle; the vote was 10-3. Our comments, both written and oral, were recognized by the Board during the Codes and Standards meeting.  The Board’s motion, as passed, also recognized the successful past work on the 2021 code cycle and recommended that the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development develop a plan for the 2024 code cycle with consideration for compliance with ED One (2022) and EO 19 (2022). Further action on the 2024 cycle will require discussion in a future meeting. We will be ready.

The Virginia General Assembly is well underway. Bills are working their way through, or succumbing to, the process. We have been issuing frequent reports on the bills we are tracking. Please join me in expressing gratitude to the members of the Joint Legislative Committee (the JLC) for their attention and diligence. The AIA Virginia delegation includes Rebecca Aarons-Sydnor, Assoc AIA, Ed Gillikin, AIA, Lauren Sughrue, Assoc AIA, and Stephen Weisensale, AIA; they are joined by ACEC Virginia delegates Kristina Preisner, Executive Director of ACEC, Eric Burke, Hugh Cannon, Nancy Israel, R Reaves, Glenn Rehberger, Don Rissmeyer, Chris Stone; our lobbyist Patrick Cushing, Esq, Hon AIA Virginia, and our loyal ally Joe Cooch, Esq.

No advocacy update is complete without an appeal to please support the AIA Virginia PAC – one of the sharpest instruments in our toolbox. And if you are supporting the PAC, we thank you.

Advocacy Town Hall: a mid-session zoom update

Ever wondered about the purpose and function of the Advocacy Advisory Council, or the Joint Legislative Committee? And how, or if, those concern the AIA Virginia Political Action Committee? And how do those elements coordinate with other components of our organization? Or with the members?

An overview of our advocacy efforts at both the state and federal level will be offered during a Zoom town hall on Friday 16 February 2024 between 3 and 4 pm – a date that happens to coincide nicely with “Crossover” at the Virginia General Assembly.

We will provide an up-to-the-minute update on the bills we are tracking in the Virginia General Assembly. And an overview of the issues we intend to address during our “Hill Day” visit to the Capitol in DC during the AIA Leadership Summit on Wednesday 28 February 2024. I hope you will join us for this discussion.

1 LU | elective



Political Outlook in VA

The 2024 Virginia General Assembly gavels into session Wednesday 10 January and the Joint Legislative Committee (JLC) is prepped and ready to go. We have already begun to review the bills and will soon be developing our response. Reports will be issued weekly – using an improved nomenclature that will make it easier to follow the progress (and the fate) of the legislation we are tracking. Please read the summaries and contact Paul Battaglia, with your observations about how the proposed legislation might affect you or your practice. Recommendations for how to improve/amend a bill are always welcome.

In addition to our efforts in Virginia, we will be headed north to advocate at the federal level. Hill Day is scheduled for Wednesday 28 February during the AIA Leadership Summit in DC (TU 27 FEB to FRI 1 MAR).

Advocacy Efforts

While our advocacy efforts occur throughout the year, there is particular attention given to the time just before the Virginia General Assembly gavels into session.  Accordingly, the Joint Legislative Committee – the JLC, which operates in cooperation with ACEC Virginia – is getting organized and oriented.

It is impossible to generate an infallible forecast of the full range of efforts that may be required to respond to the opportunities and challenges of any single session. (That’s part of the fun.) This year, with so many new legislators (an effective turnover rate of almost 35 percent in the House of Delegates and 45 percent in the Senate), might be even more interesting than most. We’ll be ready.

Our state-level efforts will be complemented by vigilance and advocacy at the national level, including our participation in the AIA Leadership Summit in DC (27 February to 1 March), which includes an opportunity to advocate on the Big Hill.

We look forward to successfully addressing all matters of interest to the practice of architecture and the operation of a professional service business in Virginia.

You can support our efforts by:

  • maintaining your vigilance (our weekly updates during the session will keep you posted)
  • sharing your thoughts/concerns on the issues
  • being available to consult on how proposed legislation might affect your practice/business
  • serving as an SME to help the JLC better understand the issues and/or impact of a bill
  • recommending improvements/refinements to bills
  • investing in the AIA Virginia PAC

You might also consider serving on the Joint Legislative Committee, the Advocacy Advisory Council, or the Board of Trustees for the AIA Virginia PAC. Email if interested.

Here we go!

The General Assembly is (Almost) a Wrap

The Budget has not been resolved. The “Veto Session” is scheduled for 12 April. And the Governor could convene a special session. But many have already remarked that this General Assembly session was generally, and comparatively, “quiet”.

Even so, the bills concerning deregulation and universal licensure reminded us of the importance of remaining vigilant and the value of engaging a strong and effective lobbyist. (Great work, Patrick Cushing. Thank you.)

With more than a few high-profile retirements, with every seat in both chambers up for election, and with the possibility that some (perhaps many) of the seats will be filled by freshman legislators, next year’s session is anticipated to be far more “entertaining”.

We will be ready.

That durable readiness depends on not only recharging our PAC investments (donate to the PAC) but also organizing our efforts to educate legislators on the topics of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS), the most appropriate mode of enacting requirements (through either the legislative or the regulatory process), and the unique and substantial ways that architects contribute to the built environment throughout the Commonwealth. If you are interested in collaborating on that effort, please read this item on the upcoming Advocacy Summit.

2023 Legislative Outlook in Virginia

On January 11th, the 2023 Virginia General Assembly gaveled into a 46-day “short session”. Republicans hold all three statewide offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General) and a 52-48 majority in the House of Delegates. Democrats hold a 22-18 majority in the Senate.

The key dates of the session:

  • January 11 – General Assembly session convenes
  • January 20 – Bill cut-off (last day to introduce bills and certain joint resolutions)
  • February 7 – Bill crossover (last day for each house to act on its own legislation)
  • February 25 – Session adjourns sine die
  • March 27 – Last day for Governor’s action on legislation
  • April 12 – Reconvened session

AIA Virginia’s Legislative Priorities

AIA Virginia did not introduce any legislation this year, but we will be closely following legislation related to Resiliency, Comprehensive Regional Planning, Professional Licensure, Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits, Affordable Housing, and the Virginia Public Procurement Act.

Please support our advocacy efforts by investing in the PAC at  We can’t do the great work we are doing without your support.

And watch your inbox for weekly updates on bills we are actively working on or monitoring.