Advocacy Meeting with State Senators

The practice of Architecture is a regulated profession that depends on the actions of the General Assembly and the Administration. Our elected officials discuss and debate legislation that affects our profession every day. Architects must engage in the legislative and regulatory process to protect our profession and keep it strong for the future. Building relationships with legislators give our profession a voice in the political process.

On July 27 Eliza Engle, AIA and Sean Reilly, AIA, members of AIA Virginia’s Government Advocacy Advisory Council had a very productive meeting with three Virginia State Senators and representatives from other industries at Williams Mullen, AIA Virginia’s lobbying firm. Senators Jill Vogel, Glen Sturtevant and Dick Black all serve on the Senate General Laws Committee, which debates and decides on legislation that impacts our profession. Each representative was given the opportunity to introduce themselves and speak about legislative concerns they wanted to share with the Senators.

Engle and Reilly emphasized the importance of Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) and the existing loophole that allows local governments and other public bodies to choose a competitive procurement process based on fee instead of qualifications. The Senators were very interested in learning more about the QBS loophole, which seemed to garner the most discussion of any topic at the meeting.

Senator Dick Black noted that the Dillon rule was originally created so that the most qualified vendor would be selected based on their experience, not based on the lowest fee. Reginald Jones, partner at Williams Mullen, spoke about the need to have a uniform set of professional services procurement rules throughout the state, rather than a mixture of locally adopted procurement procedures that has been evolving. Senators Vogel, Black and Sturtevant all agreed that the Qualifications Based Selection law is important and should be consistently upheld throughout the state.

Gaining the Senator’s support of closing the QBS loophole is a key step in what we anticipate will be a multi-year effort. The QBS loophole is just one of many issues we are working on that are important to our profession. We have a lot of newly elected officials on key committees to educate and seek support from on issues that impact our profession. In order to have a voice in the political process and build relationships with key influencers, it is important to financially support lawmakers who best support our position on the issues, regardless of party affiliation. The AIA Virginia PAC disburses funds to legislators who support issues that affect all Architects in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We strongly urge you to raise the volume of our advocacy voice by giving to the PAC today.

School Safety

AIA Virginia Grabs Seat at the Table with Legislators on School Safety Discussion

In light of recent school shootings, the Select Committee on School Safety was formed by House Speaker Kirk Cox [R-66th District] in May of this year. This is the first select committee formed in the House in 155 years. Speaker Cox shared that the scope of the Committee is to evaluate strengthening emergency preparedness, hardening school security infrastructure, implementing security best practices, deploying additional security personnel, providing additional behavioral health resources for students, and developing prevention protocols at primary and secondary institutions across the Commonwealth. The committee must complete its work by November 15 and produce a final report containing recommendations for the 2019 General Assembly no later than December 15, 2018. In order to accomplish its work, the Committee has been divided into three Subcommittees that will study the following focus area: Prevention, Mental Health, and Infrastructure and Security.

As architects, each and every one of you are a valuable resource to this conversation. Communities are shaped by the design decisions we make. We are privileged to be tasked by the Commonwealth with the responsibility to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public as we design the structures in which our community members live, work and play.

Bill Brown, AIA

With the support of Delegate David Toscano [D-57th District], Delegate Christopher Peace [R- 97th District], and Delegate Nick Rush [R – 7th District], AIA Virginia has been requested to present to the Infrastructure and Security Subcommittee on Friday, August 17 in Richmond. The Subcommittee is interested in hearing from architects the following:

• What happens in each design phase?
• How do architects design for all hazards (i.e. fire, natural disaster, active shooter, etc.)?
• What is the history and evolution of school design over time?
• What are the current trends in school design?
• What do architects consider when taking on a new construction project vs. renovation?
• What are legislators in other states doing on this issue?

Rob Winstead, AIA

Two of our members who are experts in school design have stepped up to give the presentation. One will be AIA Virginia Immediate Past President, Bill Brown, AIA and the other is sitting AIA Central Virginia President, Rob Winstead, AIA. In practice, Bill is a Vice President at Moseley Architects in Fairfax and Rob is a Principal at VMDO Architects in Charlottesville.

I’m asking that you please make a contribution to www.aiavapac.org.  No amount is too small or too large.  Help us have a seat at the table as the voice of the ARCHITECT.

Corey Clayborne, Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia, cclayborne@aiava.org

 

Lobbying for Architecture

This was one of the most politically intense General Assembly sessions Virginia has seen in a long time. There were 19 new members elected to the House, which many believe was a backlash to the results of the Presidential election. A number of Democrats were victorious in their races without the financial backing of their caucus. There was an incredibly large volume of bills introduced. That number climbed north of 3,700 when typically, it rarely exceeds 3,000. Most bills placed a strong emphasis on how will it impact my caucus/race to re-election.

The profession of architecture has its hands full. This is especially the case for practitioners that do public work. A number of localities have adopted their own competitive negotiations processes for hiring professional services. The existing Code of Virginia allows this to occur to provide flexibility to the various sizes and complexities of local governments. As one may imagine, these local procurement processes ARE INDEED, requiring price during the proposal phase and there is not an effective way to monitor or track which localities are doing this. Localities are not required to submit their customized procurement process plans to the state, and as such, there is a high level of unawareness that this is even occurring. And if a legislator knows it’s occurring, the next question is, do they care?

More and more of you are sending me RFP’s that are requiring price in the proposal. It seems to be happening more so with the RFP’s issued by local School Boards.

AIA Virginia is working on a plan with our lobbying counsel, Williams Mullen, and our allied professional society the American Council of Engineering Companies Virginia to close this loophole. This will be more than a one-year effort. You are critical to the success of this plan.

Here are the initial components of our plan:

Get the Facts: Determine and confirm how many localities in Virginia are procuring professional services through their own customized procurement processes and requiring price as part of the proposal. As you can imagine, this is a gigantic task in itself.

Education: We are preparing for an intense amount of educational meetings with legislators out of session that will be led by Williams Mullen. I’m going to be calling some of you to attend these meetings.

Legislative Sponsor: Determine if there is a Legislative Committee Chairman that would be willing to support a change in the Code of Virginia to close this loophole. This individual would be instrumental in leading the process and getting enough votes for any proposal to pass.

Please do keep me posted on RFP’s that have this language as it will help us tremendously in this first stage. This is going to be a long tug-o-war. The number of lobbyists that represent local governments and their respective associations towers over that of design professionals. However, our membership is north of 2,300 – there is Strength in Numbers. And when we decide to put our pens and mouse down for a second to unite, we have the potential to be quite powerful.

Corey Clayborne, Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia, cclayborne@aiava.org

Virginia’s 2015 Election Update

On Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, Virginians elected individuals to fill all 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly. Historically, Virginia has had a limited change in the members of General Assembly as a result of Virginia’s off-year election cycle, but partisan redistricting in 2014, a shift in demographics in parts of the state, and the retirement of many long-serving incumbents (especially in the Senate), created more competitive races in 2015. In the end, Republicans maintained control of the House of Delegates and the Senate, perpetuating the partisan split between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

Read a Complete Summary of the 2015 statewide elections prepared by Williams Mullen.