Use the Minnesota State Legislature website to stay informed on issues that affect the practice of architecture.
2019 Session Recap
2019 was a busy legislative session for AIA Minnesota, with ongoing activity on a variety of issues of interest to architects. AIA Minnesota benefited from a high level of member engagement at the Capitol this year, with member architects providing testimony in legislative committees, meeting individually with key legislators, reviewing & providing feedback on legislation, and communicating with their own legislators to advocate for AIA Minnesota positions. Those efforts help to lay a foundation as the organization seeks to raise its profile with policymakers and more deeply engage in advocacy efforts.
AIA Minnesota’s efforts focused primarily on two areas this session: Climate & Energy and Building Codes. The creation of the House Climate & Energy committee provided multiple opportunities to engage with legislators and share the architects’ perspective on proposals to address climate change and energy efficiency. AIA Minnesota had a meeting early in the session with Chair Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) that laid a positive foundation for work throughout the session. AIA Minnesota was invited to provide testimony to the committee as they identified the challenges of climate change. Rep. Wagenius publicly recognized the architectural industry’s willingness to step up and commit to fighting climate change through their daily work multiple times during the session.
Building codes and the role they play in construction costs have been a topic of discussion at the state level for the past few years. The attention to codes continued this year in a variety of ways. The House Housing Committee did an overview of the construction cost issue and invited AIA Minnesota to testify regarding the importance of building codes. AIA Minnesota was an active participant in a small coalition of groups opposed to a proposal requiring legislative review of the residential housing code. We also worked with the City of Minneapolis and others on their proposal to allow for a voluntary stretch energy code and connected with the authors of a proposal to create a stakeholder working group to review building codes.
Little progress was made on energy policy this session, but there is growing interest in these issues among both policymakers and the public, so these discussions will continue next session. We also expect the building code debate to continue, both at the legislature and potentially at the newly created Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability.
AIA Minnesota will remain engaged on issues of concern to ensure the architect’s voice is heard as Minnesota shapes its public policies.
The following are brief summaries of some key issues of interest to AIA Minnesota this session.
Climate Model Projections Study (p 252) – NOT PASSED
The House Jobs & Energy Omnibus bill included funding for the University of Minnesota to conduct a study to produce climate model projections for the state, in blocks as small as three-square miles. AIA Minnesota enthusiastically supported this effort to better inform decisions when completing energy models and take future scenarios into account. The provision was not included in the final compromise Jobs & Energy Omnibus bill passed during the special session.
School Building Energy Efficiency (p 106) – PASSED, as part of Education Omnibus budget bill
Both the House and Senate included a provision in their omnibus Education budget bills that would require schools and school districts to input their monthly utility usage data into the state’s B3 benchmarking program. This provision was passed as part of the final compromise Education Omnibus budget bill.
Green Roof Advisory Task Force – NOT PASSED
The Senate included language creating a Green Roof Advisory Task Force in their omnibus Jobs & Energy bill. The Task Force included an AIA Minnesota representative, and would evaluate global policy strategies, energy benefits and operating costs for implementation of green roofs in Minnesota. The provision was not included in the final compromise Jobs & Energy omnibus budget bill.
Voluntary Stretch Energy Code – NOT PASSED
A group of metro-area cities, led by the City of Minneapolis, brought forward a proposal this year to create a voluntary stretch energy code. AIA Minnesota was contacted by Minneapolis officials and Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis) about the issue and agreed to work with them on the proposal. AIA Minnesota President Eric West, AIA testified in favor of the bill in the House committee hearing, expressing the organization’s interest in proactively working towards increased energy efficiency and giving our local governments more tools to help in the fight against climate change. Concerns were raised by builders and others that a stretch code could potentially create a patchwork code around the state. AIA Minnesota understands the importance of ensuring that any language passed be crafted carefully and thoughtfully to address these valid concerns, and intends to continue working with stakeholders on this issue. The proposal was included in the House Jobs & Energy Omnibus budget bill but was not heard in the Senate. It was not included in the final compromise bill passed during the special session.
Legislative Review of Building Codes – NOT PASSED
Slightly different versions of this bill have been introduced in previous sessions, though none have been adopted. This year’s version would require the Dept of Labor & Industry (DOLI) to determine the cost impact of any change to the residential building code and report to the legislature on any change that increases construction costs by $1,000 or more per unit. The legislature would then have the ability to block the agency from adopting the rule through a committee vote. AIA Minnesota joined several other organizations – including Fresh Energy, IBEW, ICC, and the Assn of Municipal Building Officials – in opposing the bill, as we have in previous years. DOLI also had serious concerns with the proposal and testified against it on multiple occasions. The Senate included this in their Omnibus State Government budget bill but it was not included in the final compromise bill passed during the special session.
Building Code Stakeholder Review – NOT PASSED
This bill would create a working group, comprised of organizations with an interest in building codes, tasked with reviewing codes and making recommendations to the legislature. AIA Minnesota met with the bill authors to share our perspective on codes and our willingness to participate in any code discussions, formal or informal. The House bill was given a hearing but the bill did not move in the Senate.
Legislative Commission on Housing Affordability (p 21) – PASSED, as part of the State Government Omnibus budget bill
A proposal introduced by BATC, based on a recommendation from their recent “Priced Out” report on housing prices. The bill creates a commission made up of a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators who will study issues related to affordable housing and make recommendations for legislation to address housing challenges. AIA Minnesota plans to monitor the activity of the Commission for opportunities to assist in their work.
ADA Accessibility Definition Change (p 102) – PASSED, as part of the Jobs & Energy Omnibus budget bill
Attempts have been made in recent years by the state Council on Disability to clarify Minnesota law as it relates to ADA requirements in public buildings. This year they were able to craft language that did not raise concerns and it was passed as part of the Omnibus Jobs & Energy Omnibus budget bill. The updated law will read: The code must require new public buildings and remodeled portions of existing public buildings to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
ADA Notice Working Group – NOT PASSED
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Legal Aid brought an issue to the attention of legislators regarding confusion over compliance with the ADA. Some building owners who recently remodeled their facilities were being sued for ADA violations, despite believing the improvements to be ADA compliant. Two legislators, Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) and Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood), introduced a bill creating a working group tasked with developing recommendations for providing notice to business owners that standard building code inspections, plan reviews, and approvals do not guarantee complete compliance with accessibility requirements. The group would be made up of 13 members, including an AIA Minnesota representative, along with representatives from groups like the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. AIA Minnesota spoke with the authors and expressed our willingness to serve on the group or participate in any informal discussions. The bill was not heard in the House or Senate this year, but we believe the issue will resurface and plan to stay engaged with the authors and stakeholders
State Designer Selection Board (SDSB) Dollar Threshold Change – NOT PASSED
AIA Minnesota collaborated with ACEC & the State Arts Board on an effort to review the current SDSB process and develop recommendations for updates and improvements. One of those recommendations is to increase the dollar threshold for SDSB projects (from $2 million/$200K to $4 million/$400K) and tie future increases to inflation. The threshold has not been changed since 1996. AIA Minnesota opted to introduce the proposal this session for discussion and continue to vet the proposal with stakeholders, including the Department of Administration, the SDSB, and our higher education systems. Thus far, the proposal has been well-received and we hope to pursue action on the bill next session.
State Contractor Software Verification Use – NOT PASSED
Two bills were introduced this session under the guise of “good government” to regulate state contractors that were of significant concern to AIA Minnesota, especially because the issue gained some traction in other states. The legislation required vendors to install software on each computer connected with the contract to capture screenshots every three minutes, as well as full keystroke and mouse tracking, and store the data for seven years. AIA Minnesota spoke with the House author about our concerns with the legislation and also explained that this kind of one-size-fits-all approach to contractors would not fit with how architects perform their work. While there can be legitimate concerns of vendors over-billing or under-delivering, this type of mandated “spyware” would not solve those issues. The bills, one of which applied only to MNLARS contactors, did not move forward this year.
Historic Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit – NOT PASSED
Despite an effort led by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota (PAM) to preserve Minnesota’s current historic structure rehabilitation credit, the legislature chose to conform to the recent federal changes to the credit. PAM introduced a bill to keep the current Minnesota credit intact and repeal the 2021 sunset but it was not adopted. Instead, the state credit will now be paid out over five years, like the federal credit.
Safe Schools Supplemental Aid (p 103) – PASSED, as part of the Education Omnibus budget bill
The final Education Omnibus budget bill included a $30 million increase to Safe Schools Supplemental Aid funding, which can be used for school facility security enhancements, as well as covering other costs of violence and crime prevention (mental health professionals, peace officer liaisons, etc.).
Design & Construction Services In Emergencies – NOT PASSED
The state Department of Administration brought forward a handful of clarifications to procurement statutes this year, one of which would directly impact architects. The state currently has the authority to waive the statutory procurement processes in the case of emergencies for repair, rehabilitation, and
improvement of publicly-owned buildings – but the statute does not specifically say “design” or “construction”. This oversight caused an issue during the avian flu crisis when the construction of a lab was unnecessarily delayed, so the Department sought to clarify this authority. AIA Minnesota reviewed the language and did not have any concerns. The provision was included in the House State Government Omnibus bill, but was not included in the final compromise bill passed during the special session.