2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION REVIEW
2019 Legislative Session Review, Abridged
By Mike Waldinger, Hon. AIA
AT THE BEGINNING of this legislative session, AIA Illinois set two top priorities. The renewal of the Illinois Architecture Practice Act and the inclusion of vertical projects in any capital funding bill. With a couple of extra days work added to finish the legislature’s spring agenda I am extremely happy to report we accomplished both of our objectives in grand fashion.
First, the PRACTICE ACT. It is always a pleasure to represent architects at the statehouse, but this issue is one where we can really be proud of the architectural legacy and build on it. The legislation which passed on May 30th can trace its roots to the first architecture licensing law in the country from an Illinois State Representative and architect who worked for Louis Sullivan by the name of Charles Nothnagel way back in 1897.
EVERY TEN years, all state licensing laws have an expiration date called a sunset. If the law is not renewed it goes away and anyone can perform the services previously limited to only licensees. This was the second practice act I’ve worked on and they are never easy. Things change over time and you have to keep the law relevant with updates. The profession has ideas on what should change and so does the regulatory department. Many are the same but sometimes we have very different ideas and the challenge is to come to an agreement. And of course, lots of other interests have opinions too that may or may not be things we like.
We managed to introduce our own bill, conduct ongoing, high level and often intense negotiations and kept the differences behind the scenes so that when we went to legislators, they saw a finished product that everyone was happy to support. This was not a routine bill either. It was 59 pages of substantive legislation. By the time it was all done, there were 7 votes on the bill in the House and Senate. Those votes were 7-0, 55-0, 24-0, 20-0, 114-0, 5-0 and 59-0. NOT A SINGLE NO VOTE all the way down the line.
Second, the CAPITAL BILL. The Illinois Bicentennial in 2018 gave us a ready-made opportunity to tell the story of our state through its architecture. We celebrated 200 great places designed by architects and enjoyed by the public. What does this have to do with a capital funding bill? Well I think it’s more important to show than tell. Press conferences and presentations help but seeing is believing. Our state infrastructure is far from great. It’s falling apart. We knew there would be a desire to fix the horizontal network of roads, bridges and transit. We had to make the case that buildings are infrastructure too and that desperately needed vertical projects must be included in any capital bill.
THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION WRAPPED UP with a $43 billion capital funding plan as one of their last votes. Yes, transportation gets a big chunk of that at $33 billion. But $9 billion goes to state and university facilities, parks, libraries, hospitals, schools, museums, local governments, and affordable housing developments. Much of these state appropriations will include other matching funds. A separate bill would backstop $3.4 billion of financing for the $19 billion One Central development in Chicago’s south loop. Another end of session budget agreement creates five new construction project tax credits to spur private sector building activity. The total project amount across these programs will easily exceed $30 billion.
THIS WAS MY 30th YEAR working in the state legislature starting with a job as a page in the House of Representatives when I was in high school. Yesterday, my son graduated from high school after working as a Senate page. I’ve been in this business for a generation. After 18 years at AIA Illinois, I’m also graduating in a way. Leaving AIA Illinois with the most capable team at its disposal and with two huge victories in the books. Hopefully this is not nostalgia-tinged optimism talking but I consider this the best session I’ve ever been blessed to be a part of. Illinois is finally, mercifully on the way back to righting the ship of state and is partnering with the architecture profession to do it.