HB 590 Requires Our Community to Have an Honest Conversation

HB 590, the Interior Designer licensing bill has caused a lot of consternation in our offices, where interior designers who have been integral parts of our practices are asking why AIA opposes a bill that seemingly serves to recognize their capability and elevate their stature in the professional community?

If the Bill had been presented to AIA ahead of its introduction into the House and Senate and it had been a recognition of the capability of those who have mastered their profession, we would be taking a different position. But it did not.

In terms of writing a bill in support of Interior Designers, we think we can do better! And here is what that initiative might look like.

We start by looking at the current bill and two major shortcomings. HB590 does not distinguish between those who practice their profession at the highest levels and those who may not have the education nor training to fully understand the liability for life and safety they assume when sealing drawings for permit. Under NCIDQ, the entity certifying Interior Designers, you can at present become certified without having earned a degree in Interior Design, ever having prepared a set of construction drawings, having work qualifications based exclusively on years of representing manufactured products and passing a certifying exam based solely on residential and light commercial work. Yet, the current bill will allow NCIDQ certified persons to seal work in every classification in the North Carolina Building Code.

Secondly, the bill mandates that the designated regulating agency, the Department of Insurance, accept the findings of the NCIDQ in terms of who is qualified to be registered, but makes no provision for DOI to question the level of competence of anyone certified by NCIDQ. Licensing boards in every other profession are tasked with determining what constitutes competency. They are not mandated to use a specific entity to do this as is the case for this North Carolina bill.

It is known that AIA National has a policy of not supporting sealing authority for anyone with less than the qualifications currently in place for Architects. However, eighteen states have already negotiated proper recognition for Interior Designers without compromising the publics’ safety by allowing for unlimited practice authority. The initial step in writing a better bill is for AIA North Carolina to look at these options with the Interior Designers who practice in our offices. And with ASID if they would agree to come to the table.

To that end, we invite Interior Designers working in our firms to attend upcoming sessions along with architect members in order to discuss aspects of this bill and the back-up information we have collected to support a more comprehensive solution.

If you have not yet attended a workshop on HB 590, please plan to do so at the scheduled time for your section. Dates are being set for Triangle, Wilmington, Winston Salem and Asheville sections during January and February. We will be holding additional sessions in the Charlotte, Eastern and Piedmont in March for those who were not able to attend their workshops during November and December of 2017.

In terms of immediacy, it is urgent that we put a stop to HB590 where the advocates are still pressuring the NC Senate for passage, the last step before sending to the Governor for signature into law.

There are 2,200 members of AIA North Carolina, and 50 Senators we need to speak with prior to the legislative session getting underway May 16. If you would agree to schedule a time to meet with your NC Senator between now and then, preferably as part of a team, we ask you to send an email today. We need individuals willing to express views on this bill and willing to get to know their elected representatives personally in order to be a resource for them in the future. Our legislators need knowledgeable resources for issues dealing with the built environment especially as it relates to HSW. There is no place better to get this information than from a profession which prides itself on being an impartial resource to its clients and that has a strong dedication to the health, safety and welfare of those who occupy the spaces it designs.

Architects have a lot to offer when it comes to resolving complex issues. But we need to begin taking the initiative, not be on the receiving end at every turn.

Please send an email to AIA North Carolina Advocacy Director, richard.alsop@arcreview.org today. Let us know the name of your Senator as well as House representative. We will pair you with a group of fellow professionals so you can meet with your elected representative before start of the next session.

In looking back at 2018 from the not too distant future, it would be nice to say that this was the year architects became a trusted resource to our state legislature as well as local governments, that we worked with our allied professionals in bettering their professional standing and not that this was the year when architects and interior designers no longer became relevant with respect to protecting Health, Safety and Welfare of the public.

Truly, this outcome is not in the hands of our legislature. It is in ours.

Richard Alsop, AIA
AIANC Director of Advocacy

David Crawford, Hon. AIA
AIANC Executive Vice President

AuthorDavid Crawford