By Nikolaus Remus, AIA Government Affairs Manager for AIA Colorado

Since January, we have been hard at work advocating on behalf of architects at the State Capitol. Now that the 2018 legislative session has ended, we’ve pulled together a summary of the decisions that could impact you as an architect.

Bill topics are organized by the categories used in our Directory of Public Policies and Positions.

Let’s begin with a few salient background details: Our governor, John Hickenlooper (D), is in his last year in office. The House has a strong Democrat majority, and the Senate has a slim Republican majority. 2018 is also an election year. This means every seat in the House (65 total) and half the seats in the Senate (17 of 35) will have an election in November.

With different parties in control of the House and Senate, bills sponsored by only Democrats will fail in the Senate, and bills sponsored only by Republicans fail in the House. Being an election year, there are more grand-standing bills than usual, and both parties scuttled bills introduced by legislators in competitive races. Only 444 of the 721 bills we saw this year made it to the Governor’s desk.

Thank you to all our Government Affairs Committee and Legislative Subcommittee for all the work you put in during session. If you know anyone listed below, take a moment to thank them for their efforts reviewing and evaluating every one of the 721 bills (a new record!) introduced this year:

2018 Legislative Subcommittee Roster:

  • Anthony Ries, AIA; 2018 GAC chair
  • TJ. Carvis, AIA
  • Brandon Gossard, Assoc. AIA
  • Curtis Scharfenaker, AIA
  • Scott Shea, AIA
  • Jerry Johnson, Hon. AIA/CO; Lobbyist
  • Nikolaus Remus, AIA; AIA Colorado staff

Many of the bills listed below were passed in the final days of the session and, where noted, have not yet been signed by the Governor. It’s not uncommon for bill signing ceremonies to be scheduled in the weeks following the session end, and we do not anticipate any of the bills below getting vetoed.

Supported by AIA Colorado: Tax Credits for Historic Preservation Projects

We would like to recognize Liz Hallas, AIA for representing architects at the bill’s first committee hearing. This bill is important because it extends existing tax credits for historic property revitalization projects through 2029. Residential historic properties now also have more access to the tax credits. This will increase the number of historic preservation projects in the state, which directly supports our members involved in these projects. Communities across Colorado also benefit when iconic buildings in need of repair get the renovations they deserve and an increased lifespan.

Other Bills of Interest Monitored by AIA Colorado

Architectural Licensing and Regulation of Practice

There are efforts in legislatures across the country to reduce the number of licensed professionals and occupations regulated by state governments. These bills don’t specifically target the architecture profession, and generally state that licenses directly related to public health, safety and welfare should not be de-regulated. However, the AIA is seeing exactly the same language used in most of the bills introduced.

Architects in other (typically conservative) states don’t have the same level of license protection we have here in Colorado, so we’re watching this category of bills closely. Two licensure-related bills were introduced in the Senate this year, but both failed in committee hearings in the House.

  • PASSED (pending Governor’s signature): HB18-1418 Use of Criminal Convictions in Employment

It will now be easier for individuals with criminal convictions to obtain a license in Colorado, provided their convictions are unrelated to the license or profession being pursued. DORA still has numerous criteria at their disposal to evaluate the relevance of a prior conviction, but can no longer deny a license based solely on the vague notion of “good moral character” as was previously used in statute.

Licensed professionals in Colorado now have better defined procedures for mediation proceedings when a state agency are facing revocation of their license for alleged misconduct.

  • FAILED: HB18-1038 Land Surveyors Continuing Education Requirement

This would have added continuing education requirements for licensed land surveyors. We opted not to take a position on this bill since it did not directly affect architects, but we were concerned about the “continued competency” language used in the bill with respect to continuing education. If there isn’t a system in-place to measure “continued competency,” then its use results in a vague requirement that is difficult for both DORA and the licensed professionals affected to comply with. In previous years, architects have successfully fought against the phrase “continued competency” being used in our section of statute. Ultimately, the Senate was not convinced that land surveyors needed continuing education at all and the bill failed.

  • FAILED: SB18-193 Limit State Agency Occupational Regulations

This bill had two specific purposes. The first was to make DORA and related state agencies review every current licensed occupation/profession to determine if they are utilizing the “least restrictive regulation” possible, then de-regulate those that don’t qualify under the new criteria. The second purpose would have allowed individuals to file lawsuits against DORA if they thought an occupation or profession was being over-regulated.

  • FAILED: SB18-236 Least Restrictive Regulation Professions and Occupations

This bill would have made it more difficult for new occupations or professions to start to become regulated in the state. This bill had a similar list of “least restrictive regulation” options to SB18-193.

Liability and Tort

There was a sense of fatigue at the capitol this year on the subject of construction defect reform, after the effort required to pass last year’s HOA lawsuit reform bill. As a result, legislators opted to focus on other subjects this year instead of further attempts to reduce construction defect lawsuits.

  • FAILED: HB18-1261 Colorado Arbitration Fairness Act and HB18-1262 Arbitration Services Provider Transparency Act

These would have added more transparency to the arbitrator selection process for architects using (or subject to) arbitration clauses in contracts. Both passed in the House but failed in committee hearings in the Senate.

Sustainability and Resilience

The 2018 legislative session saw a number of bills in this category introduced by Democrats this year, but few made it through the Republican-controlled Senate. There were still a few success stories that promote sustainability and energy efficiency in the built environment though.

These bills make it allowable to use reclaimed water for toilet flushing and to water edible crops. Due to a series of complex water-use laws and agreements in Colorado, use of reclaimed water for any purpose is a challenge. Architects working with a focus on sustainability will want to talk to your clients and engineers about how you can incorporate reclaimed water

An income tax credit is now available to homeowners who retrofit their home with improved accessibility or aging-in-place accommodations. If you work on these projects, we recommend you bring up this option with your clients to determine if they may qualify for the credit.

  • PASSED (pending Governor’s Signature): HB18-1394 Update Colorado Disaster Emergency Act

The Colorado Disaster Emergency Act is being updated after a multi-year effort to identify inefficiencies. Much of the bill is unrelated to the architecture profession, but the bill also directs the Colorado Resiliency Office to maintain a “Resiliency and Community Recovery” program. Since resiliency in our communities is becoming a priority for AIA National, we’re looking at ways to get more involved in these efforts already in place here in Colorado.

  • PASSED (pending Governor’s Signature): SB18-003 Colorado Energy Office

The Colorado Energy Office’s function has been expanded to oversee and promote responsible use of all energy/electricity generation methods in Colorado, not just renewable energy sources. While this expansion was opposed by Democrats last year, it was a necessary compromise with the Senate to continue funding the office.

Rural communities facing a significant negative economic event can now receive assistance from the state to limit the impact on jobs within the community. While this will not result directly in new construction projects, we applaud this effort to preserve communities that have a higher risk of losing their stability after a significant economic event.

  • PASSED: SB18-009 Allow Electric Utility Customers Install Energy Storage Equipment

Good news for architects working on projects with on-site electricity generation. Individuals are now allowed to install energy storage equipment on their personal property thanks to this bill. Rules and regulations will be developed by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

Governmental Regulation of the Built Environment and Funding Appropriations

Building codes and safety standards don’t see a lot of action at the state capitol, but there was one bill of note on the subject of excavation standards for buried utility lines. Also listed here are the various bills pass this year allocating money for state-owned capital construction projects.

Additional marijuana tax revenue is being dedicated to the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) program. In addition to the current $40 million put into the program, 90% total of the actual tax revenue above beyond that amount will still be allocated specifically to capital construction projects.

Moving forward, schools applying for BEST grant assistance must include a plan for future use or disposition of existing facilities that will now longer continue their current use if the grant is received.

This bill adds protections to land classified residential use, even after the land undergoes improvements or  existing residential structures are removed, that might trigger a review of its use classification. The protections are time-limited, with the intent the owner will immediately redevelop the land for a use allowable under its previous classification.

While this may not affect architects directly, the state now has better define rules on how quickly money must be allocated to a specific capital construction project (typically three years). This means that when the state decides to invest in a project, the project will begin in a reasonable timeframe.

For architects or your clients that have pursued a “low income housing” tax credit, this bill changes the name to a “affordable housing” tax credit. This bill also extends these credits through the end of 2024.

  • PASSED (pending Governor’s signature): SB18-167 Enforce Requirements 811 Locate Underground Facilities

Rules for locating and excavating around buried utility lines (“underground facilities” per statute language) have been significantly updated. You may remember a similar bill last year that would have put an undue burden on architects to assume liability for underground facility locations on project sites. A work group was assembled last summer, including architects and professional engineers, to propose changes to the bill that would protect excavators without creating liability for architects. Fortunately, the bill that passed this year no longer affects architects, and is now only applicable to projects that are primarily horizontal construction (roadways, etc.).

A dedicated maintenance fund will be created for the Governor’s mansion. This will not limit funding requests made through current processes.

A dedicated maintenance fund has been created for the controlled maintenance needs of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center.