This past Saturday I had the opportunity to take part in the first ever Advocacy Boot Camp sponsored by AIA Illinois and held at the offices of AIA Chicago. The purpose of this half day seminar was to train citizen architects to build long-lasting, effective relationships with their legislators so they can advocate confidently and successfully for issues important to AIA Illinois, the advancement of the profession, and their own personal and professional goals.
There are so many examples of the importance of being involved in and aware of what is happening in local and state government and I will speak to one specific example shortly. One of the leaders of the boot camp Eric Davis with Public Design Architects LLC said it best, “If you’re not at the table you’re on the menu”, and he couldn’t be more right. Name any big organization or professional group and they will certainly have a lobbyist in every state capital and Washington D.C. bending the ear of key elected officials to get their agenda or cause passed. One example of this is the Interior Design Practice Act. This law, if passed, would require a registered or certified Interior Designer to stamp plans relating to the interior architecture of a building, whether part of a new construction project or simply an interior build-out. A deal was reached during Prairie Grassroots last year that allowed the renewal of the Interior Design Title Act and would prohibit the introduction of a professional license act. The issues here are many but mainly focus around life safety. Architects take on quite a bit of liability when stamping plans. Rumor has it the proponents of the legislation are going to re-introduce the Practice Act before the General Assembly in March, three years before the actual 4 year ban is due to end.
Prairie Grassroots is the annual AIA Illinois’ Lobby Day at the state capital in Springfield. This year’s event is in less than two weeks on Feb 8th , and there is still space available for all those interested in signing up. After arrival in Springfield and a quick briefing by AIA Illinois staff to discuss the issues and talking points we will head to the Capital building to track down our legislators. This will be my first time attending the Prairie Grassroots event and I can’t wait to report back.
Lastly, I would like to mention Illinois Architects Political Action Committee (IAPAC). As a group architects are one of the worst at supporting and donating to our official PAC. Its amazing the work the AIA does with the minimal funds given. Its no wonder things like the Interior Design Practice act get as far as they do, they fund their lobbyists very well. It doesn’t take much. If every member would even donate just $25 the IAPAC coffers would be overflowing. I urge all architects, whether you are a member of the AIA or not, to support your states architecture PAC. It isn’t hard, just visit your state’s AIA website and you will find a way to donate online. There are constant threats to this profession through groups lobbying their legislators, we cannot stand back and expect everything to be fine. We cannot assume that someone else will take care of it. You get out of something what you put into it. If we all don’t pay close attention to and be good stewards of this profession we may wake up one day and wonder what happened.
Photo by Matt Howry, Flckr Creative Commons