16 April 2014

Legislative Update by Dan Chun, FAIA

Hawaii State Legislative Update by Dan Chun, FAIA

AIA Hawaii State Council is responsible for monitoring state legislative bills important to architecture and architects. Following is an update, current to April 15, at the important milestone where the Senate and the House confer on their differences related to bills that crossed over from the originating body and then were amended on the path to possibly become law.

To read the current text of bills discussed below, go to the state legislative website www.capitol.hawaii.gov. Follow the prompts and you can see the process, the text of each amended bill version and the interesting public testimony both supporting and opposing. AIA testimony is shown for bills in the respective public testimony file.

Consumer Protection and Licensing

AIA did not come across bills this 2014 session that dealt directly with this subject. However, AIA strongly supported Senate Bill 2581 Relating to the State Building Code. SB 2581 SD2 HD1 modifies the Council by adding voting members representing the construction industry and allows the staggering of code adoptions (maximum 6-year intervals). SB 2581 prohibits the Council from adopting provisions that conflict with laws governing contractor licensing and appropriates funds for the Council’s operating costs, including staff salaries. SB 2581 passed through both houses and is now in conference committee to resolve differences in the Senate and House versions. Of great concern to AIA is that a bill like this passed in the 2013 session only to have Governor Abercrombie veto the bill saying a state building code council must not be funded using Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund because building codes are not related to hurricane protection for the public.

Public Procurement

AIA and our allied Construction Industry Council of Hawaii CICH supported Senate Bill 2463 that banned the “defense of government agencies” requirement in all public contracts for design professionals and construction contractors. The “defense” requirement survives the life of the contract and, for architects and engineers, is uninsurable for professional liability claims. Buildings, highways and infrastructure have long service life so our liability is greatly lengthened relative to other services bought by government. Currently state law bans the clause for public design contracts less than $1 million dollars. During the session, the bills were revised to ban “defense” duty for architects-engineers, while requiring construction contractors to defend the public agency for one year after Notice of Completion. State Attorney General opposed the bill as overly generous to construction contractors. However, construction contractors fear that the duty to defend relative to project professional liability issues would then fall unto the construction side of insurance.

AG suggested using a time period equal to Statute of Repose. However, this is considered unacceptable because the Statute is subject to being revised or being overturned by the state Supreme Court as it was in the 1990s. A compromise was worked on by Senator Clayton Hee, but in the end SB 2463 was deferred at Senate Judiciary over irreconcilable differences with the Attorney General.

AIA thanks those members who sent supporting testimony for our bill. At the last CICH meeting, we discussed a strategy for 2015 session with a new bill that takes into account the number. timing and types of claims in response to AG opposition. It typically takes 5-7 years to pass a bill, so we are still at the beginning of the effort. Just like the design process – back to the drawing board!

Works of Art Special Fund

AIA opposed Senate Bill 2620 that dramatically revised the original intent of Hawaii’s I% set-aside for public art in state-funded buildings. AIA was an original supporter of the law championed by architect Alfred Preis FAIA. SB 2620 would have diverted some funds for performing arts and allowed state-funded public art to be displayed in any government building including federal and county-funded. SB 2620 failed to pass the House Finance Committee, meaning it is essentially dead.

Historic Preservation Senate Bill 2633

AIA monitored SB 2633 attempting to exempt all residences from current state historic preservation law, but did not submit official testimony. Several architects sent opposing testimony that well-characterizes the detrimental effect the bill could have on the built environment of this state. Last fall AIA Honolulu sat on a City & County of Honolulu DPP task force that proposed some common sense changes that could be taken to alleviate complaints surrounding the current DLNR process. Track the DLNR determinations of no significant impact by Tax Map Key, meaning subsequent building permit applications for the same building would not need to duplicate the effort. Develop a list of exempt activities.

Opposing testimony of the Historic Hawaii Foundation makes the same good points and calls upon DLNR to update the list of eligible buildings with true historic significance, instead of a “categorical” exemption for all residential buildings.  

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