Advocacy Monthly In a Nutshell – May 2020

By mid-January, IIDA Southern California and IIDA Northern California Chapters agreed to pursue legislation in the form of a “study bill.” The legislation would have asked the Legislature to convene a group of experts to examine the current status of interior design, both from a practitioner and regulatory standpoint, and to issue recommendations that could potentially be incorporated into law. While there was significant legislative interest in the issue, several of the offices that were asked to author the legislation thought it more appropriate to hear and approve changes to professional scopes of work during Sunset Review – a legislative oversight system of authorizing, altering, and reauthorizing the boards and councils that administer California’s regulated professions. This proved to be the most prominent obstacle to securing an author for the bill, but as it turns out, many legislative efforts introduced at the start of the year have ended, as the Legislature is ultra-focused on COVID-19 fallout and response.

Both houses of the state’s legislature are now back in session, and the budget committees of both the Senate and Assembly need to work expediently to pass a Budget Act by June 15. The process entails an in-depth overview of the Governor’s “May Revision,” which is a yearly document that proposes changes to the initial budget proposal laid out in January. As you can imagine, this May Revision contained proposed cuts, reversions, and deferrals that we haven’t seen since the depths of the Great Recession.

Governor Newsom opened his May Revision press conference with the observation that “the world has changed dramatically since I proposed my budget in January.” After a wistful review of the January budget surplus and some of the many planned investments, the Governor got down to business – a summary of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the California economy and revenues, and a plea directly to the federal government to provide additional relief. With unemployment claims soaring and the state’s revenue from the “Big 3” sources (Personal Income Tax, Sales Tax, and Corporation Tax) all down at least 25% in the first quarter of the year, the future of our state’s economy is uncertain.

Given the realities of the current economic landscape, the task at hand for the legislature is difficult. Trying to preserve programs that have been built up over the past several years of economic growth, all while working towards a balanced budget seems a near impossible task, but it is unavoidable. This is once both houses have agreed on their own budget packages, they will meet in a conference committee to iron out their different priorities and come to a final agreement on a bill that will then be sent to the Governor for his signature. We also anticipate a revision to the 2020-21 budget sometime in fall, when the state has a better sense of income tax revenue.

We must look to what we can change in our practice to prevent the same tragedy from happening twice. These changes are already underway, particularly in the health care design sector, but really across the board, to ensure the built environment is a place of health and healing. Part of our work must also be making sure that policymakers are aware of the proactive approach the commercial interior design industry are taking, and ensuring that the state is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of California’s buildings and their occupants. Until it is safe, we will conduct this advocacy through the power of the internet, and host “virtual lobby days” with legislators and their staff to promote our message. Online member trainings and virtual advocacy roadshows will also be offered. Planning for these events is underway, and I encourage you to reach out to Christine Peter and Jade Li, your local advocacy VPs, if you would like to be involved.

Christina Marcellus, Lobbyist for IIDA Southern and Northern California Chapters
Capitol Advisors Group LLC

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