I just got back from my first AIA Illinois Prairie Grassroots Lobby Day and it definitely lived up to the hype. After a long but comfortable 4 hour bus ride to the state capital we had a quick lunch and were breifed by AIA Illinois staff regarding the issues we would be discussing with our legislators.
The day was not without drama, it was announced that the House had cancelled their session for the next day which meant the Representatives would be heading back to their districts right after they were done with the session. We had to hurry to the Stratton Building and hope to catch them before they headed home.
There were actually two of us from the 19th district, myself and Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy at Landmarks Illinois. As this was my first time in Sprinfield advocating for the AIA it was great to be paired up with a veteran in the advocacy game. We first met with Representative Joseph Lyons, a democrat with 16 years of service in the House of Represntatives. We had three items on our agenda and they were all very well received.
As I mentioned there were three issues that AIA Illinois had us discuss with our legislators. The first was House Bill 3636, Mechanics Lien Intent. The Mechanics Lien Law has been in effect for over 100 years but a recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling changed the way that law is enforced with regards to foreclosure properties. In the past Banks lien rights were to the value of the land and contractors lien rights were to the value of the improvements. Makes sense. Now with a foreclosure property the lenders can jump to the front of the line on proceeds that come from the improvements made to increase the value of the land. This has the potential to further depress the construction and design industries in this state as fewer business will be able to work on credit if their lien rights have essentially been taken away. Suppliers will demand their customers pay cash for building materials because they know if a project goes bad the contractors are at the back of the line when it comes to their lien rights.
The second item on our agenda was Senate Bill 2886, a Tax Credit Trailer bill. A recent US Tax Court ruling made the tax credit mechanism virtually unusable for investors and developers. A small change to the language of the bill will make the tax credits fully transferable making over 80 cents of every dollar go to the targeted project instead of 30 cents as is expected now after the US Tax Court Ruling.
The last item on our agenda was a bill supporting historic neighborhood schools. Currently under the school construction grant state matching funds are only available towards replacing aging schools. A simple change to the language of the bill to say, “replace or rehabilitate aging schools”, will give school boards more options. As we know, the greenest building you can build has already been built. Many times these older builidngs are structurally sound and represent a sizable community investment. Replacement buildings, often built on undisturbed land, cause people to have to drive or bus kids to school as opposed to the existing older school built right in the neighborhood where kids walk to school. It has also been shown that rehab projects employ more workers versus new construction projects.
Our second stop of the day was with Senator John Mulroe of the tenth senate district. Senator Mulroe is actually a co-sponsor for HB 3636, Mechanics Lien Intent which made that sales pitch rather easy. Senator Mulroe was very receptive to our other two agenda items as well assuring us that he would look into them.
At the end of the day the three items outlined above, if addressed, have the potential to put people in Illinois back to work and create more jobs in an industry that has been the hardest hit in this state and the nation and they do it without costing taxpayers a penny more. These items are fiscally neutral. Please contact your districts elected officials and urge them to support the issues outlined above.
Interior dome of State Capitol by ukslim (John Hartnup, Flickr CC)
Exterior State Capitol by mhowry (Matt Howry, Flickr CC)