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AIA Ohio Testifies For "Good Samaritan Bill"

On March 26 AIA Ohio Immediate Past President, Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA asked members of the Senate Civil Justice Committee to pass HB17 which would provide civil immunity for architects, contractors, engineers, surveyors, and tradespersons providing volunteer services during a declared emergency.

Murphy said that currently architects are not able to volunteer in emergencies due to their status as licensed professionals. They risk losing their license by offering opinions on damaged structures without contractual language in place.

In an emergency, help is needed right away, but creating contracts is not a quick process, she explained. And if there is no contract, the architect will not be covered by insurance and would have to decline to help unless they had immunity, as she hopes will be achieved with the bill.

"Following a large-scale disaster, hundreds or thousands of buildings may be damaged," she said. "Average citizens won't know whether their homes and businesses are safe to enter or occupy." That's why she believes architects are essential during and after a declared emergency.

Sen. Skindell asked how architect volunteers are coordinated with the government in an emergency situation. Murphy said the architect has to be invited by a city, county or state official, as stated in the bill.

 

Representatives of the Associated General Contractors of Ohio, and the Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio also provided similar testimony. 

AIA Ohio "Good Samaritan" Bill Has Senate Hearing (HB17)

The Senate Civil Justice Committee took Sponsor Testimony April 18 regarding AIA Ohio's "Good Samaritan" Bill, HB 17.  The bill would provide civil immunity for architects who are providing volunteer services during a declared emergency. 

The sponsors said the measure was brought to them by the Ohio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects whose members have expressed a desire to help out during declared emergencies but currently have no immunity when working in a volunteer capacity. Rep. Landis said there currently is not civil immunity for engineers, architects and surveyors so volunteering "It's not a leap in logic to assume that few, if any, of these people would risk their eight years of investment in their profession - the amount of time it takes to become a registered engineer, survey or architect in Ohio - for volunteer work. While altruism should be applauded, it should not be expected," he said.

Rep. Blessing explained that In order to be eligible for the immunity, the emergency must be officially declared a national, state or local emergency and services must be uncompensated and requested by someone working in an official capacity such as law enforcement or the governor. He added that at no point is there any immunity from wanton, willful or intentional misconduct.

"During a declared emergency, we want our A Team in the game, not sitting on the sidelines," Rep. Landis said in support of the bill.

Senate Begins 'Deep Dive' into Tax Expenditures Including Historic Renovation Credits

The Senate Ways and Means Committee Wednesday began what Chairman Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) characterized as a "deep dive" over the next several weeks into the issue of tax expenditures here in Ohio as they prepare to take up the FY16-17 budget in the near future.

Tax Expenditures include such things as Historic Renovation Tax Credits and tax exemptions provided to non-profit entities like AIA Ohio.

Questions he said they want to address are how did the tax expenditure "get there"? What does it do? What does it cost? Who are the constituencies?

Next week, the committee will be focusing on tax expenditures in the sales tax.  Peterson said he welcomes testimony in support of any of those exemptions, etc. or testimony questioning any of them, such as the one raised by Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) in Wednesday's hearing regarding sales tax exemptions for nonprofits including for the Cleveland Clinic. 

Read more: Senate Begins 'Deep Dive' into Tax Expenditures Including Historic Renovation Credits

Ohio Architects Board Asks Reinstatement of On-line Renewals

Amy Kobe, executive director of the Ohio Architects Board and the Ohio Landscape Architects Board explained the Board's mandate during March 17 testimony before the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Committee studying the Governor's Budget proposal, HB 64.  Kobe said, "The mission of the boards is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Ohio. The boards uphold the national standards of the professions through licensure, regulation and enforcement. The board office operates with a staff of four. There has been no increase in the number of staff since 1981. During that time, the number of active registrants has more than doubled and the number of exam candidates has quadrupled. The number of licensed firms tripled since 2004.

"In the coming biennium (FY16-17), the boards are projecting total revenues of approximately $1.47 million. The board requested an FY16 appropriation of $507,614 for FY16, and $551,264 in FY17, for a total request of $1.058 million. The recommendation was for $507,614 in FY16 and $517,492 for FY17, which is not sufficient to maintain the levels of service we should be providing to our customers. During the recession, the board's non-payroll budget was cut by 30 percent. In order to meet this goal, among other reductions, online renewals were discontinued. We desperately need to reinstate this service.

"The board also achieved other cost savings by reducing the number board meetings, which lowered travel and meeting expenses. Adopting a consent agenda reduced the length of the meetings, and emailing board meeting materials has reduced printing expenses. The board almost exclusively communicates with licensees electronically, which has reduced postage and printing expenditures. Our frequent emails to customers are well-received and we receive many compliments on our communications.

"As the Internet has expanded, consumers have come to expect the convenience of online services. The boards are requesting restoration of the funding needed to provide online renewals as well as new applications. The problem with online services is the high cost of credit card fees, which average $3.05 per transaction. The estimated two-year cost of providing online services for renewals and new applications is $36,600, plus IT development expenses. At $110 per hour, IT developments costs are conservatively estimated at $11,000 (biennial cost) for online renewals and new applications."

 

Chairwoman Grossman asked how long it would take to get the renewal process online. Kobe said in the past it was given a 90 day window. Grossman asked if Kobe was having discussions with the appropriate people to start the process. Kobe said the renewal process doesn't start for another nine months so she has not started the process. Rep. Green asked if the increase in rent was something happening to all agencies or just this one. Kobe said, "We don't have any more space but they have changed the way rent is calculated." Rep. Clyde asked if applicants and licensures are the bulk of Kobe's customers. Kobe said applicants and licensures are the bulk of their customers, but they also deal with complaints and general inquiries. 

BWC Directors Approve Rate Cut

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors gave formal approval Feb. 27 to another rate cut totaling $500 million in private employer savings under the Kasich administration.

Directors voted to approve the 10.8 percent, $153 million estimated rate reduction after an initial hearing last month and a final recommendation from the Actuarial Committee. BWC Administrator/CEO Stephen Buehrer attributed ongoing premium cuts to a several factors including lower-than-expected claim frequency and this year’s adoption of prospective billing, under which the bureau will bill in advance rather than in arrears. The switch will save employers money and free up state investment dollars for BWC.

“The environment for employers operating in Ohio is improving along with the state’s economy, and BWC is certainly part of that story,” Buehrer said. “We’ve targeted improvements that will yield positive improvements to Ohio’s workers’ compensation system, and are conducive to business growth. Lower rates, along with a focus on workplace accident prevention and care for those who are injured, all support the state’s continued economic recovery.”

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  • Latest AIA News & Information
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  • Legislative Issues

    AIA Ohio’s Legislative affairs program provides information and leadership through advocacy and monitoring of legislation and regulations at the state level.  By collaborating with allied professionals, industry representatives, code officials, and state and local representatives, AIA Ohio strives to build strategic alliances to address issues of public health, safety and welfate, design excellence and in advancing the quality of life through the built environment.

    As advocates of innovative approaches to legislation, AIA Ohio advances state regulations that benefit the practice of architecture and promotes good design that positively affects the quality of life of for all citizens of Ohio. Through our efforts, AIA Ohio works to educate the public and legislators on a wide facet of issues relating to architecture including:

    • Qualification Based Selection
    • Historic Preservation
    • Sustainable Design
    • Building Code development and regulation
    • Statute of repose

    Working through our highly qualified staff and experienced membership, AIA Ohio proposes regulations, positions architects as leaders, and tracks and responds to legislation that benefits both architects and users of the built environment alike. Additionally, through our Political Action Committee, we strive to support legislation, and allies in the legislature, that advances the needs of our members.

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