Becoming a Citizen Architect: Through the Member's Lens of Testifying to the Colorado State Legislature 

Last month, six Colorado architects testified to the Colorado House Business Affairs and Labor Committee. They spoke in support of House Bill 21-1147: Simplifying Architects Continuing Education Requirement to eliminate the unnecessary continuing education provision requiring proof of retention documentation. Colorado has been the only state with this provision in its architects’ practice act and is atypical among professions regulated by the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). This is a necessary step toward updating our DORA board’s rules to remove the requirement to maintain forms or quiz results from continuing education courses.

To learn more about their experiences of advocating and creating change in the profession, we caught up with AIA members T J Carvis, AIA; Erin Braunstein, AIA; and Amy Graves, AIA. Below, they share their experience as citizen architects testifying in support of the bill.

AIA Colorado: What were your personal and professional motivations for testifying in support of the bill?

Amy Graves: My motivation for testifying was mainly professional. I previously lived in Illinois, which did not have this extra requirement to document that I retained the material. Here in Colorado, it is onerous to have to complete this documentation and save it just in case I am audited. It is extra paperwork that isn’t necessary.

T J Carvis: My goal in testifying was to promote this bill that would bring clarity to the DORA requirements without lessening the importance of continuing education. I also thought it would be a great life experience!

Erin Braunstein: I appreciate the efforts AIA Colorado has taken to help craft and propose this bill. My representative from House District 34 serves on the committee that was reviewing the bill that day [Business Affairs and Labor].

AIA Colorado: Has the experience changed your view of how architects can advocate for their interests at the state level?

TC: I’ve been active with the AIA’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) for a few years, but I had not testified until this bill. I personally believe that architects should strive to have a bigger voice in the law-making process. We have an opportunity to shape the law in Colorado by providing valuable input to legislators. When aligned with the AIA’s mission, the input may allow architects to more effectively meet the challenges we face as a profession and as a society.

EB: It has underscored for me how important it is for legislators to hear from their constituency as they are reviewing legislation in committee. This was a simple statement of my point of view.

AG: Being somewhat aware of what the GAC does has provided me with the insight on how architects can be influential.

AIA Colorado: What was the “day-of” experience like for you? What happened during the proceedings and how did you feel?

EB: The virtual connection was straightforward, and we had a window of when the agenda would turn to our topic. After I closed my statement, Representative Mullica expressed kind words of thanks. I’m glad I took the small amount of time to participate while the bill was in committee and gaining momentum to be passed in the house.

AG: Nikolaus Remus [AIA Colorado Advocacy Engagement Director] provided the witnesses testifying with the wording of the bill itself and the history behind it. He also suggested making it personal. I wrote out what I wanted to say and how the bill relates to me personally.

TC: Aside from the typical concerns that can arise from the format of a remote meeting, it was enjoyable! I testified in the middle-to-end of the group. I was surprised that even though as a group we did not review our testimony together, everyone spoke of different reasons that they were in support of the legislation.

AIA Colorado: Would you consider testifying in the future?

AG: Yes, I would testify again, and I have been asked to testify in front of the Senate Business Committee for the same bill. I encourage my fellow architects to get involved in something outside of architecture whether it is testifying at the State Capitol or joining your neighborhood group—you never know what kind of influence you can have.

EB: Yes. It felt empowering to speak, be heard, and feel my testimony helped the bill move forward.

TC: Absolutely! Testifying for, or against, a bill is one of the privileges of living in a democracy. It was gratifying to participate.

Witness testimony is a powerful way to directly influence legislation and advance the interests of our profession. Your engagement and advocacy do matter—as proof, House Bill 21-1147 passed both chambers with no objections. The bill awaits the signature of Governor Jared Polis.

© AIA Colorado 2022