A. Lee Graham email@example.com
As an annual architect convention got under way in Fort Worth, industry advocates lauded the defanging of what they consider unfair state government protection. “The last hanging fruit was state agencies,” said Wade Long, an Austin lobbyist reporting success in battling sovereign immunity, which had protected state government from architectural, engineering and construction breach-of-contract lawsuits.
“This has been an ongoing problem,” Long told about 40 architects attending one of the first sessions at the Nov. 7-9 Texas Society of Architects’ 74th Annual Convention and Design Expo in Fort Worth. Hundreds of architects strolled through Fort Worth Convention Center hallways. They grabbed free coffee and muffins while discussing regulatory challenges their industry faces and a strengthening home-construction market while catching up on innovations affecting their profession. In a tiny conference room, some of those attendees applauded what the society considers success in pushing sovereign immunity legislation in the 83rd Texas Legislature. They considered it a victory industrywide. “We did get across the finish line with the new statute,” Long said. Sharing that assessment was David Lancaster, a senior advocate with the Texas Society of Architects also serving as a panelist at the session.
“While the collaborative efforts of the design and construction industry didn’t yield parity with similar laws affecting all other political subdivisions, the bill does establish that no state entity can summarily claim immunity from suit simply on the basis of who they are,” Lancaster wrote in a state legislative wrap-up. The June 2013 recap followed the May 27 conclusion of the legislative session. Lancaster expressed mixed feelings about newly approved legislation requiring all state-licensed architects to undergo fingerprinting when renewing their license to practice or receiving initial licensing. The requirement is new for several industries, not just architecture. “We are the only [state] that require fingerprinting, so be proud,” said Lancaster of Texas requirements for architect licensing, drawing muted laughter from the modest audience. “They’ll start second-thinking that ‘open for business’,” said Kathy Grant, a legislative consultant joining Long and Lancaster as session panelists. She referred to a commercial from Texas Wide Open for Business, part of the Texas Economic Development Division within the Governor’s Office.