With a new legislative session just beginning, David Lancaster, Hon. AIA, Senior Advocate, runs down some issues that could impact architects during this year’s Regular Session, which runs through Memorial Day.
Big Picture Items
Budget: With fewer dollars to spend on governing than two years ago, we could feel the impact, not only on huge, emotional items that have been well covered in the press, like Child Protective Services shortages and reforming public education funding, but also for smaller items like courthouse preservation, one of our priority issues.
Who’s Calling the Shots? As big a question as the money is whether or not the state will limit the authority of political subdivisions, which could impact architects even more. An example of this is Austin’s citywide ban on plastic bags; will it be over-turned? What about rules governing Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services? State authority can override a city’s— but should it? The debate will be on doing it as a general rule versus deciding on when or under what circumstances.
This could have an even more significant impact when it comes to local finances, among other potential scenarios. How often and when can cities and counties hold bond elections? Many architects have at least one public school project. Limiting bond elections could have a tremendous impact on the availability of funding for such projects, not to mention increasing costs by creating a simultaneous demand for labor and materials. State limits on municipal authority could also potentially affect building code adoptions or amendments.
Limiting Shotgun Lawsuits: We are looking to limit shotgun lawsuits by establishing a “right to repair.” If a client threatens a lawsuit, architects and constructors should first have the right to repair the issues.
Statute of Repose: We are looking to shorten the Statute of Repose. This would acknowledge that design issues can and should be addressed within the first five years of operation, not subject to an unnecessary, more expensive 10-year liability.
Sales Tax on Architectural Services: We oppose any bill that would create a sales tax on architectural services. Over 75% of Texas architectural firms are small businesses that employ fewer than 10 people. Additional taxes, especially a tax on professional services, would put Texas architects at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS): QBS is currently the best process to ensure transparent, competitive best-value professional services. We oppose any weakening of QBS. Design professionals know they must compete publicly, negotiate aggressively if or when judged most qualified, and provide the best value possible each time if they want future work.