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AIA Indianapolis and YAF Host Virtual Day at the Statehouse

by: Jack Quigley
AIA Indiana and AIA Indianapolis Young Architects Forum (YAF) held a virtual tour of the Indiana Statehouse in March to give young designers insight into Indiana’s legislative process and its effect on the design industry.

The Indiana General Assembly is made up of 100 members of the House and 50 members of the Senate. Each Indiana resident has his or her own state representative and state senator elected to represent the best interests of their district.

In Indiana, republicans control the House of Representatives by a count of 71 to 29, as well as the Senate by a count of 39 to 11.

The pandemic has made it necessary for the Indiana General Assembly to adjust how they hold committee hearings in order to allow more room for physical distancing. The Senate is using the public gallery, as well as the 50 seats on the floor, for their days in session. The House of Representatives has moved to a larger space in the Indiana Government Center to meet for their session days. The House chamber is being used for committee hearings.

AIA Indiana Executive Director Jason Shelley talked about a few proposed bills that, if passed, would dramatically impact the future of Indiana’s built environment

House Bill (HB) 1114, Residential Building Design Elements
Authored by Rep. Doug Miller (R - Elkhart), HB 1114 strips local governments of their ability to influence residential architecture in their communities. AIA Indiana opposes HB 1114 because it is detrimental for good design in Indiana, and is bad for communities, homeowners, and consumers. Supporters of the bill say it will reduce the cost of new homes.
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Shelley said this bill was introduced last year, but AIA Indiana and their allies were able to stop the bill from coming to vote on the House floor due to an intense lobbying effort.

HB 1114 stops local government from regulating the design of residential structures.

“You cannot put a one-size-fits-all fix because what is good for Gary, Indiana, is probably going to be a lot different than what’s good for Zionsville, Indiana,” Shelley said. “Indiana has so many wonderful communities, unique communities, and just allowing those local communities to not have any impact or any say on what their communities look like would be a disaster in our opinion.”

As well as stripping away the ability to make communities unique, Shelley said there are also serious health, safety, and welfare concerns associated with HB 1114. The bill was strongly supported by the Indiana Builders Association (home builders) and the Vinyl Siding Institute among others. The bill was opposed by cities, towns, counties, firefighters, fire chiefs, engineers, the insurance industry, and the masonry industry.

“AIA’s members and our allies believe strongly you can have affordable housing that is designed well, is safe, and will hold its value,” Shelley said. “You can have affordable housing, but you don’t have to race to the bottom on design. That’s not good public policy.”

HB 1116, Piping Materials for Public Works Projects
Also authored by Rep. Miller, this bill seeks to legislate the criteria engineers use in determining most appropriate materials to be used on a project. This same bill was also considered in previous sessions with language requiring the consideration of a specific type of piping, PVC. AIA Indiana opposes this measure because it imposes arbitrary and unnecessary specification requirements, seeks to solve a non-existent problem, and is a thinly veiled effort to promote a product. The bill would set a terrible precedent if it were to pass.
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AIA Indiana strongly opposed this bill, along with the engineers, cities, towns, counties, and other piping material groups. Shelley said HB 1116 did not make it out of committee and AIA Indiana does not anticipate it will return this year.

HB 1322, Building and Fire Safety Codes

Authored by Rep. Carey Hamilton (D – Indianapolis), this bill would require Indiana to update the building related codes, except for the residential code, within two years of the adoption of a national code. Designing and building resilient buildings is not a choice, it’s an imperative. Building codes are essential to creating a high-performing, resilient built environment. AIA Indiana stands for the development, adoption, and enforcement of comprehensive and coordinated building codes that promote safe, resilient, and energy-efficient design and construction.

Shelley said, “This bill did not receive a hearing, but we’re going to keep plugging away and it will be back next year. I’m hopeful more folks will see why this is a really necessary pieces of legislation and becoming more and more necessary as we move forward amidst climate change.”

Rep. Hamilton joined AIA Indiana’s virtual tour to explain some of the current initiatives under discussion at the statehouse. As a former Energy Projects Manager and Policy Consultant for the City of San Jose, California and Executive Director of Indiana Recycling Coalition, Hamilton said she uses her platform to advocate for energy efficient building and design policies.

“The energy and power in the statehouse is going in the absolute opposite direction and it’s going to very costly for our state and for our people if we don’t turn that dynamic around,” Hamilton said. “So, I challenge you – in all of your conversations about your communities – to educate folks about what it means to be smart when we think about how to spend our tax dollars and build our infrastructure moving forward.”

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Despite the unbalanced dynamic created by a supermajority in the House and Senate, Hamilton said she found success in gaining bipartisan support for a bill she proposed last March focused on investing in trails and connectivity in urban and rural communities.

“It was the first time we ever got state-dedicated money for trails, but it was one time funding,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said only $20 million of the bill’s allotted $90 million was spent before the pandemic hit. The next round of funding, which was going to be around $40 million, froze indefinitely.

“Our caucus kicked into high speed to really lobbied hard to get those dollars back, and those dollars are back,” Hamilton said.

HB 1191, Construction Materials for State Educational Institutions and Local Government
Authored by Rep. Jim Pressel (R - Rolling Prairie), bans state educational institutions and local units of government from requiring a particular component, design, or type of material be used the construction of a building because of their energy saving or energy producing qualities. Also, local units of government would be banned from: prohibiting the use of a particular component, design or type of material in the construction of a building because they do not meet an energy saving standard; prohibiting the sale, installation, or use of natural gas-powered home heating equipment and appliances.

AIA Indiana opposes HB 1191 because it would strip away the right of local governments to enact energy efficiency laws related to building design and construction and discourages energy efficient design. Shelley said this proposal represents another heavy-handed approach that seems counterintuitive to the world we live in now and urged architects and other invested community members to reach out to their state senators and ask them to oppose HB 1191.

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As Shelley concluded the virtual statehouse program, he stressed to attendees, “There are no architects in the Indiana Legislature, so you are automatically an expert when it comes to issues surrounding architecture.”

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