Joint City County and Local

October 31, 2022

 

Rep L Fite: We’ll call this meeting of City County Local joint meeting to order. Our first item is we need a motion for the September 7, 2022, meeting minutes for approval. I have a motion. I have a second. All in favor, say aye. Those opposed, say no. All right, item D, we need a motion to review. Okay. We need a motion to– okay. Item D, we have an overview and comments by sponsor Representative Aaron Pilkington. You may go down to the table, identify yourself and proceed after that.

 

Rep Pilkington: Thank you, Chairman Fite. Today we have a review of the Small Town Economic Development Act. For those who do not remember, during the last session, we wanted to update this part of the code. So with buildings whose total cumulative fair market value not to include site does not exceed $100,000, we want to change that to $250,000. What had happened was, I had my mayor come to me and let me know that they had several small projects in their downtown that they were looking to complete. But when they came back and were trying to follow this law the best that they could, they were coming back with exorbitant fees and requirements for architects that had come in. And so what they had said is originally, when you look back when this came into being, $100,000 back then was worth around what $250,000 would be today when we ran it. So all we were simply doing was updating the amount in the code from $100,000 to $250,000. But one thing of the things we put in it was that it would come up for review like it is today. And we just wanted to make sure that when we were doing this that there wasn’t any sort of negative impacts to our communities as we were building this and updating the amount that we required. So for my knowledge, I’m unaware of any negative incidences that have occurred. I’ve only heard good things about this from small people or small communities, some people from within them, and including the mayor of Clarksville, who we’ve seen a lot of great and wonderful things happen to their downtown. And I invite you to come and look at them. And that’s kind of it. Simple, short, sweet. I know there’s other people here to talk and present all that and they can probably speak a little more intelligently to it. But that’s the general gist of why we’re here today, we’re doing this is part of the deal when I presented it was that I would include this review of the legislation. It was happening near the end of session and a lot of things happen. I just wanted to be a good steward that we all got a chance to go in and look at this and not put something in place that would never get changed. And so here we are doing this part of the deal.

 

Rep L Fite: Are you ready for questions?

 

Rep Pilkington: Yeah.

 

Rep L Fite: Okay. Any questions, committee? Representative Collins, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Collins: Thanks, Mr. Chair. So I just want to make sure I understand procedurally what we’re doing, and maybe this is a question for staff. But are we deciding today whether or not we’re going to keep it at the $250,000 level or revert it back to the $100,000 level, or are we just looking at it as sort of an advisory role?

 

Rep Pilkington: To my understanding is there will be a motion today either to keep it at the $250,000 or let it revert to $100,000.

 

Rep Collins: Okay, quick follow-up then.

 

Rep Pilkington: But if I’m incorrect, please correct me.

 

Rep Collins: Okay. I’m just wondering about this delegation of authority from the full legislature to this committee. Is this proper to delegate the authority to decide whether it’s $100,000 or $250,000 from the full legislature bill signed by the governor to this committee?

 

Rep Pilkington: Well, when we passed this law, this was part of it. And so I would say that we took action back in the session to give this committee that authority.

 

Rep Collins: And that’s been reviewed for being a proper delegation?

 

Rep Pilkington: I can’t answer that question. I believe it is, but I’m not 100% positive. Maybe Chairman Fite can answer that.

 

Rep L Fite: Would you like us to get BLR over here to answer that question?

 

Rep Collins: It might be a good idea.

 

Rep L Fite: Okay. Okay. Please identify yourself for the record and proceed.

 

Davenport (BLR): Good afternoon. Michelle Davenport with the Bureau of Legislative Research. I brought the actual language of the bill to clarify that issue for you, Representative Collins. The effect was that, in a lot of cases, what we do is we delay an implementation date because of this. We flipped that. So we allowed the implementation, but it will take legislative action next session to keep the amount as what it is. It would be providing that legislation with the recommendation of this committee to keep it or to revert. But it would require legislation to maintain the amount. But there would be a motion from this, whether you approve that as a committee or not.

 

Rep Collins: Yes, thank you. I appreciate that.

 

Rep L Fite: Yes. No, I have Senator Hendren in front of her. Yes.

 

Sen Hendren: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So Representative Pilkington, as I look at the bill here, it said the review was due on or before October 10. Did we miss that?

 

Rep Pilkington: We did. I think it’s just an oversight. Everyone was so busy.

 

Sen Hendren: So we’re all law-breakers now?

 

Rep Pilkington: What was that?

 

Sen Hendren: So we’re all breaking the law now?

 

Rep Pilkington: I guess so. Sorry.

 

Sen Hendren: Are the police here?

 

Rep L Fite: Senator Hendren, maybe I can answer that question. When Representative Pilkington brought this to our attention, we went to BLR and asked them to research it. And they came back and said it would be proper to review it.

 

Sen Hendren: Okay. And I just want to again make sure I understand, to Representative Collin’s question and to what you just said from the staff, we already have approved the $250,000 but it’s going to go back to $150,000 unless the legislature takes action to continue it. Is that right?

 

Rep Pilkington: Yeah, I believe so. Sorry, I misspoke when I first answered Representative Collin’s question. She cleared it up. So we make the recommendation that we want to keep it here, but it would take action during the next session. Sorry about my miscommunication.

 

Rep L Fite: Representative Dalby, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Dalby: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think Senator Hendren asked the question that I was curious as to the October 10 deadline, so I’m good. Thank you.

 

Rep L Fite: Any other questions? Seeing none, you are dismissed.

 

Rep Pilkington: Thank you.

 

Rep L Fite: At this time, Shana Bryant, executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, and Interior Design; Wesley Walls of AIA, president; and Daniel Parker, general counsel for Arkansas State Board of Architects and Landscape and Architects– excuse me, Arkansas Department of Labor and Licensing. And if you would, identify yourself. And if you have opening statements, y’all go ahead and proceed with those.

 

Walls (AIA): Thank you, Mr. Chair. Does that work? There we go. Thank you. Mr. Chair. My name is Wesley Walls. I’m the current president of the State Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers. Shana, you want to introduce yourself?

 

Bryant (ASBLAID): Hello. I’m Shana Bryant, the executive director of the Arkansas State Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers.

 

Parker (ADLL): And I’m Dan Parker. I’m the chief legal counsel for the Department of Labor and Licensing. The Architects Board is one of the occupational licensing entities that is now under the department.

 

Walls (AIA): Mr. Chair, I just wanted to offer our comments as a representative of the State Board of Architects that we do not take any objection to Act 568 as proposed. And so we’re here just to express our satisfaction with the way this has been prepared and written.

 

Rep L Fite: Any other statements?

 

Walls (AIA): No, sir.

 

Rep L Fite: Okay. Questions? Senator Stubblefield.

 

Sen Stubblefield: Yeah, I have one question, Mr. Walls. Do you have any idea how much the dollar has lost in value since 1980?

 

Walls (AIA): Dollar’s values lost in what?

 

Sen Stubblefield: How much the dollar has lost in value since 1980?

 

Walls (AIA): I do not, not offhand. No sir.

 

Sen Stubblefield: It’s lost 71%. So Mr. Pilkington was pretty much spot on when he said $250,000 is worth about $100,000. So I just wanted to point that out. The dollar is not worth what it used to be.

 

Walls (AIA): That’s correct.

 

Rep L Fite: Okay. Any other questions? Yes. Senator Hendren, you’re recognized.

 

Sen Hendren: No. I appreciate your coming forward and saying that because really that’s unusual from an industry. So I guess what I would ask you then is $250,000 is okay. Would $500,000 be okay? Where do you see the threshold being where it begins to become a problem?

 

Walls (AIA): I think our discussion amongst our board has been that we feel comfortable with this amount. I think if it were higher than that, I think that might warrant other discussions about that. Primarily, what I want to state is the function of our board is regulatory, and our mission is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Arkansas. So the dollar amount has to do with concern about the type and size of buildings where people’s life safety comes into effect. And so that would be our primary concern.

 

Sen Hendren: So you think, again, 250 is where it needs to be?

 

Walls (AIA): I do, sir. Yes, sir.

 

Sen Hendren: Okay.

 

Rep L Fite: Representative Rye, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Rye: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me ask you this, sir. The way this is written, let’s just say that you had a business that wanted to open up and it was going to cost $400, maybe $500,000. Could they use this $250 to offset a portion of that?

 

Walls (AIA): Offset a portion–

 

Rep Rye: Okay, I’ll give you an example. Let’s just say that it’s a half of a million dollars that’s going to go within a business. Isn’t that what this is supposed to be?

 

Walls (AIA): No.

 

Rep L Fite: Seeing no other questions– excuse me.

 

Rep Rye: Okay. I think I get it.

 

Rep L Fite: Seeing no other questions, we appreciate your testimony today.

 

Walls (AIA): Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

 

Rep L Fite: At this time, we have two signed up, John Wilkerson from Municipal League and also Mark Whitmore from the Association of Counties. If you would, please state your name for the record and then proceed. Please identify yourself for the record.

 

Whitmore (AC): Mark Whitmore, Association of Counties.

 

Wilkerson (AML): John Wilkerson, Arkansas Municipal League.

 

Rep L Fite: Do you have statements?

 

Whitmore (AC): Well, we do. Last session, prior to the session, the County Judges Association was looking at this issue. We actually had a bill. It was Senator Caldwell and Representative Holcomb that you all adopted into law. It raised the contractor bid limit for public works construction and the threshold for bidding and the engineering threshold. Now, we were looking at the engineer for the architect threshold, that’s $100,000. And as you all learned today, it was several decades old, and you all could have justified increasing it like Representative Pilkington did. We actually did not pursue it at the time, so it would be studied. And then Representative Pilkington stepped up to the plate and you all raised it to $250,000. And the county judges do support continuing that raise. Some of the things that you all already heard, if you’re looking for redoing the bathrooms at a courthouse at $120,000 and there’s $100,000 bid limit, you’re going to have trouble finding an architect, not to mention the delay of just in doing that type of work and the cost. So I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but inflation since 2021 has been remarkable. Construction inflation has been even more so. So the idea of raising the $250,000, we wholly support that, continue keeping it at $250,000 instead of going back to $100,000.

 

Wilkerson (AML): And for the cities and towns, there’s nothing negative about this at all, just positive, especially with, like you mentioned, the inflation rate the way it is. So we fully support, of course, as well, keeping it at $250,000.

 

Rep L Fite: Okay, I appreciate the brevity of your remarks. All right, you are dismissed, seeing no questions. Okay. What is the recommendation of the committee? Representative Dalby, you’re recognized.

 

Rep Dalby: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move that the committee consider Act 568 reviewed with the following– with the language to remain at $250,000 and not revert back to the $100,000.

 

Rep L Fite: Do I have a second? Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none, all in favor, say aye. Okay, we have now item E. Senator Hammer could not attend the meeting today. ISP 2001-133 will be discussed at a later meeting. We need a motion to adopt ISP 2021-133. I’ve got a motion. And a second? I have a second. All in favor, say aye. Seeing no other business come before this committee, we are adjourned.