Advocacy on the Boards | June 2021

“Advocacy On the Boards” is a monthly update from the AIA Pennsylvania Government Affairs Team to inform members of the great work “on the boards” ensuring architects are at the policymaker’s table to affect positive and equitable social, environmental, and economic outcomes for the profession and the commonwealth. This work includes lobbying state lawmakers, their staff, and other government officials and agencies to provide architects’ guidance on policies that impact the built environment and, in turn, the health, safety, and welfare of all Pennsylvanians. AIA Pennsylvania members’ technical expertise and experience are critical to the priority issues as charted by the Government Affairs team and informed by the membership’s feedback each two-year legislative session cycle.

Get the latest on the issues moving through the legislative process that AIA Pennsylvania worked on throughout June and continues to monitor and pursue.

On the Boards | Advocacy!

Save the Date! Get Ready to Advocate in August
District Days are back! AIA Pennsylvania will be looking for your availability throughout the latter half of the month of July to schedule meetings with legislators in your local districts in August. Depending on your level of comfort and your elected officials’ comfort, meetings may be hosted virtually, in-person at your office for a “take-your-legislator” to work visit, or in your legislators’ district office. This is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with your legislators and introduce yourself and AIA Pennsylvania as a resource for industry issues in a more relaxed environment. 

We will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, July 28 at 12 pm to prep all participants for their August meetings. In the meantime, stream 2019’s webinar outlining best practices for meetings. Members were directed to share their professional “proof points” and project narratives with legislators to introduce them to the broad scope of the architects’ skillset and practice. The goal was to have elected officials walk away from meetings with an understanding of the ways architects can act as a resource for them in all matters related to the built environment that touch the health, safety, and welfare of their constituents.

Advocate4Arch From Your Phone
AIA Pennsylvania is part of a pilot for a new advocacy platform that enables you to receive notice to take action on urgent legislative matters from your mobile device. We urge you to sign-up to opt-in to receive our “action alerts” via text. Text “advocate4arch” to 40649 to opt-in.

On the Boards | Legal Reform

Bill Protecting Architects & Engineers from Unjust Indemnification Advances
Pennsylvania’s current anti-indemnity statute prohibits an architect or engineer from seeking indemnity for their own negligence arising from the preparation of drawings and specifications. However, owners, contractors, and subcontractors can be indemnified for their own negligence, in whole or in part. Earlier this month, HB 424, which seeks to extend the anti-indemnity statute to owners, contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers ensuring that no party can be indemnified or held harmless from their own negligence, passed the House Commerce Committee. It will be considered on the main floor of the House when session reconvenes at the end of September.

On the Boards | Practice Encroachment

Legislation Giving Interior Designers Signing and Sealing Rights Tabled
A credit to the grassroots advocacy of AIA Pennsylvania members, the House Consumer Affairs Committee temporarily tabled June 15’s scheduled vote on HB 1258, which aimed to give interior designers signing and sealing rights for interior code-regulated commercial construction documents.

On the Boards | State Budget & Federal Recovery Funding

State Budget Passes with Conservative Expenditure of Federal Recovery Funds
Governor Tom Wolf has signed the state budget which includes a considerable chunk of federal recovery funds that have been tucked away for a rainy day.

Of particular interest to architects and AIA Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) notes that the new budget includes funding for housing in several key areas:

  • $50 Million for the Construction Cost Relief Program from the commonwealth’s receipt of federal American Rescue Plan funds. This money will help ensure that the state’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit construction projects are not further delayed due to rapidly rising construction costs and other unforeseen cost increases. Some projects that received more recent LIHTC funding have been jeopardized due to large cost increases for materials and labor.
  • $350 Million in federal Homeowner Assistance Funds provided to the commonwealth through the American Rescue Plan. This funding will help homeowners who are falling behind on their mortgages due to the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. It will be used to prevent mortgage delinquency, default and foreclosure; provide utility assistance; help with insurance payments and homeowner/condo associations fees; and provide other types of assistance as allowed by U.S. Treasury in its guidelines for federal ARP funding.
  • Authorization of $10 million annually in state tax credits to assist with the financing of multifamily housing projects awarded credits through the new Pennsylvania Housing Tax Credit Program, established with passage of Act 107 of 2020. This program was created last year but was not allocated tax credits at that time. PHFA will administer the program.
  • Increase in the annual state tax credit allocation to the existing Mixed-Use Development Tax Credit Program from $3 million to $4.5 million. Proceeds from the sale of tax credits are used by PHFA to fund the construction of mixed-use (commercial/residential) construction projects through the Community Revitalization Fund Program. PHFA is authorized by the General Assembly to administer both these programs.

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports that half of the federal relief spending — about $1.1 billion — will go to the Department of Human Services. The budget also earmarks:

  • $282 million in federal funds on personal protective equipment and other pandemic-related costs for nursing, assisted living and personal care homes.
  • $279 million in federal funds on bridge and road construction to make up for lower than expected gas tax revenues. 
  • $50 million in federal funds for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education for its planned redesign, which calls for the consolidation of six schools.

A historic $416 million increase in state funding for public education is also a key piece of the spending plan. The budget makes investments to support the needs of schools and students, including a $200 million increase in the Fair Funding Formula, $100 million to support underfunded school districts through the Level Up initiative, $50 million in special education funding, $30 million for early education, $20 million for Ready to Learn, $11 million for preschool Early Intervention and $5 million for community colleges. It is also worth noting that the moratorium on PlanCon has been extended with this budget cycle.

On the Boards | Environment

RGGI Investments Act Announced
Legislation announced mid-June (Senate Bill 15 and House Bill 1565) would create funds to disperse proceeds that would be generated for Pennsylvania through Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) auctions. Specifically, it would make targeted investments to support workers and communities affected by energy transition, invest in environmental justice communities, and further strengthen Pennsylvania’s growing clean energy and commercial and industrial sectors.