AIA ILLINOIS YOUR VOICE AT THE CAPITOL
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Maintaining Visibility in the Governmental Process
Many people wonder: What does a Lobbyist do and what do our lobbyists do for AIA Illinois?
First, we need to distinguish between exclusive and contractual lobbyists. An exclusive lobbyist is a person who advocates for one entity and one entity only. An exclusive lobbyist is also referred to as an in-house lobbyist.
We have exceptional contractual lobbyists. Contractual lobbyists lobby for multiple entities. For AIA Illinois, we have the expertise of Nektriz Amdor Andersson Group:
Elaine Nekritz, JD, former State Representative
John Amdor, former legislative director for the State of Illinois, Masters in Urban Planning and Policy
Steve Andersson, JD, former State Representative
Our contractual lobbying team has a highly respected presence at the Capitol, developed through years of building positive relationships with members of the General Assembly and other lobbyists.
The amount of legislation that goes through the process each year that touches upon the design-build industry truly takes a large team, both in-house and contractually. We are able to protect the integrity of the architectural professional licensure through a scaled down but highly efficient and effective team.
So what exactly happens at the Capitol during Session and why do we need a team?
During the 2023 regular session, there were approximately 8,000 bills and resolutions that your legislative team combed through as all are introduced at the beginning of the regular session. Regular session runs from January through the end of May. Through those bills, an average of 500 bills touch upon the design-build industry, which includes but is not limited to trade acts such as plumbing, energy issues, school safety, and capital bills. Sometimes AIA Illinois legislative initiatives may overlap with other licensed professionals.
Time dedicated towards legislative advocacy is not unlike that dedicated to a large building plan. There are tons of pre-meetings. Planning meetings. Instead of meeting directly with subcontractors and vendors, we meet with other lobbyists representing other aspects of the design-build industry, such as plumbers, interior designers, physical engineers, etc. who share similar interests or concerns. We make every effort to work with other industries and also with regulatory agencies and the Capital Development Board. Drafts upon drafts are written and often shared.
As designs change, so does the language in legislation. More meetings take place with bill sponsors and other industry lobbyists to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Additional testimony in front of state senators and representatives in committees to explain and justify our reasons for objecting or supporting a bill, or an amendment to the bill, requires an extensive amount of research. Instead of inclement weather, another entity may go a direction opposite of that discussed without notice, and we have to be prepared to make sure that the architectural profession is protected at a moment's notice.
Sometimes there is a really long wait for that one knowledgeable craftsman, who is the only person who can create the one special part of a project. An architect or project manager would then have to reorganize logistics to keep the momentum of a project moving forward. Lobbyists do the same when waiting for the one legislator who may be a committee chair for professional licensure or labor who will best work with our team on behalf of the design-build industry.
Architects can relate to the aspect of lunches being a luxury, and late late hours a norm. During the months of January through the end of May, it is not unusual to work weekends and well past 10 p.m. Weekends begin late in order to make sure all committees are planned for the following week. With deadlines, we too have to address deadlines for bill filings. Several types of deadlines occur throughout legislative session. Just like a construction site, sometimes balls are dropped through human error from staff at the Capitol. We then have to scurry to find a fast alternate solution to keep our objectives moving forward.
Understanding the codes, acts, language and the entire legislative process to be able to quickly respond to questions and other entities attempting to infringe upon the architectural profession comes with years of practice and engagement at the Capitol. These are laws that are being acted upon, and the ability to effectively and efficiently read, comprehend, explain and amend language is truly an art. It is a skill that quickly separates one person from another, and establishes the reputation of the entities represented.
In the end, success for this process boils down to the relationships built with other lobbyists and members of the General Assembly. AIA Illinois has long established a set of ethics and transparent communication that is recognized throughout the Capitol. We highly encourage all of our members to come to Springfield and spend a day in the life of a Lobbyist advocating for AIA Illinois. It is exciting and rewarding. And we are fortunate to have such a great and positive Board and membership to make all of this happen.
Contributing to the Illinois Architects Political Action Committee is an important way to participate in the political process. Coupled with a positive and proactive lobbying approach, IAPAC plays an ever more important role in maintaining the visibility of architects in the governmental process.