ARCCA Archives, Specialist|

[Originally published 1st quarter 2005, in arcCA 05.1, “Good Counsel.”]
Imagine. You enter into a contract with a public agency to provide architectural services. You provide services and receive compensation. Later, the public agency determines that it erred and did not have the legal authority to contract out for the services you already provided. Because of the public agency’s mistake, you are now required to return the fees you received for the services you provided. Sound unbelievable? Not really. A similar bill passed the Legislature in 2004, but thankfully the Governor vetoed it. The bill, SB 1892, would have applied to contracts for services with the State of California. Have no doubt—if SB 1892 were signed into law, there would have been a bill in 2005 to make it apply to other public agencies.
Often the AIA California Council is asked why it devotes a large portion of its resources to governmental advocacy in Sacramento. It is because both the business and practice of architecture are affected by the actions of the California Legislature.
For example, California law determines who can hold an architectural license, who can practice architecture, who can compete with architects, the liability of architects and when you can be sued, the working conditions in architectural firms, how architectural firms can organize their business, and the livability of our communities.
There are other examples. A couple of years ago, a new law was enacted in an effort to reduce the amount of residential construction defect lawsuits. An early draft of the bill contained language that would have changed design professional liability from the negligence standard to a strict liability standard. The AIACC and its design profession partners, the Consulting Engineers and Land Surveyors of California and the Structural Engineers Association of California, successfully preserved the negligence standard. A few years before that, the Legislature was writing a new law to allow public schools to use design-build for the design and construction of school facilities. An influential interest in this process suggested that the law require the architectural firm, no matter its role in the design-build entity, to be financially responsible for the completion of the project if the contractor fails. The AIACC was able to convince the interest proposing this language that it was unworkable.
These examples are not offered to give you the impression that the legislature only poses a threat to your business and the practice of architecture, for that is not the case. There are many legislators who understand, appreciate, and support the architectural profession. And as some of the above examples show, often they will make changes to their proposals when we explain how they will negatively affect the profession.
There is no single key to having an effective advocacy program in Sacramento. An effective program consists of several components—grassroots involvement, a professional lobbying presence in Sacramento, and financial contributions to legislative candidates. The AIACC incorporates these three components into its advocacy program.
The most important is grassroots involvement. It informs legislators that their actions will have an impact on those who elect them. For this reason, the AIACC encourages architects to develop relationships with their legislators. And it is why the AIACC holds its annual Day at the Legislature. On this day, architects from throughout California come to Sacramento to visit their legislators and discuss the issues important to the profession. The AIACC also periodically asks targeted groups of architects to write their legislators when a bill important to the profession is considered. We usually ask the letters to be sent to us, and we bundle and deliver them to the legislators with the message, “This is how your architect constituents feel about this bill; allow us to explain further.” As former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neil once said, “All politics is local.”
AIACC staff and a contract lobbyist provide the professional lobbying presence in Sacramento. Our role is to know what is happening in Sacramento and who is behind it, to work with AIACC members and AIACC leadership to develop a response, to identify who we need to lobby to implement that response, and to coordinate grassroots involvement. We review the 3,000 bills that are introduced in the Legislature each year, and we review each amendment to those bills.
Perhaps the least attractive side of an effective advocacy program is political action, or making political donations to the campaign accounts of legislative candidates. Running for and holding elective office cost money, however, and most candidates do not have the personal resources to finance their own campaigns. The California Architects for Livable Communities Political Action Committee, or CALC PAC, is the political action committee of the AIACC. CALC PAC is controlled by a committee of AIACC members and receives its money from voluntary contributions from the AIACC membership. CALC PAC contributes to legislative candidates, both current legislators and those running for an empty seat, who demonstrate an understanding of the architectural profession. Whenever possible, CALC PAC will buy tickets to an event held in the legislative candidate’s district and invite local architects to attend on its behalf to help develop relationships between legislators and their architect constituents.
How does the AIACC use these tools to advance the interests of the profession in Sacramento? We sponsor changes to state law we believe will benefit the profession and society, and we react to the legislation forwarded by others.
Every year, the AIACC surveys the membership and talks with individual members to identify changes to state law we should sponsor. Upon approval of the AIACC Advocacy Advisory Committee and AIACC leadership, AIACC staff develops the language and finds a legislator to introduce our proposal as legislation. Not all of our efforts have been successful—sometimes there are opponents to our ideas—but the AIACC has successfully changed the law for the benefit of the profession. Examples include the law that allows architectural firms to form Limited Liability Partnerships, the requirement that public agencies include their contractual indemnification provisions in their RFPs, the design professional lien, the requirement that architect and client have a written contract, and the coordinated process the state follows to adopt the building code.
Reacting to the initiatives sponsored by others is just as important as sponsoring legislation. As mentioned above, around 3,000 bills are introduced in the Legislature each year. AIACC staff reviews all of those bills and identifies those that are of interest to the profession. Working with architects and attorneys and insurers who represent architects, AIACC staff analyzes the identified bills for review by the Advocacy Advisory Committee and AIACC leadership, for development of our response. The AIACC sometimes supports bills, such as bills to place a school facility bond measure on the ballot; opposes bills, such as the bill explained at the beginning of this article; or seeks an amendment to a bill to change a part of the bill that unnecessarily harms the profession.
The decisions made by the Legislature can both harm and help the architectural profession. Successfully representing the architectural profession, to minimize or stop the bad bills and to promote the beneficial bills, is a team effort. It requires the participation of practitioners and constituent architects and the continuing generosity of the legal and insurance representatives of architects who freely offer us their professional advice.

Mark Christian, Hon. AIACC
Mark Christian, Hon. AIACC

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