Advocacy in Action

State associations take their platforms to the Hill.

For the past several years, construction trade professionals have made good use of the cold days of February by spending several of them at the State Capitol. For 2019, the American Institute of Architects (AIA)–Iowa Chapter, the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Iowa, and the Iowa REALTORS® Association are again organizing events “on the hill.”

Each association has designated dates for its respective members to participate in lobbying events with their legislators.

American Institute of Architects–Iowa Chapter

The AIA Iowa has been organizing events at the Capitol since 2007, and it continues to provide a full day’s worth of well-planned activities for attendees. The group typically has about 50 participants.

“For the last eight years or so, we’ve been growing a culture of advocacy within the AIA Iowa,” says Executive Director Jessica Reinert. She says that recognizing the significant impact of legislation—for architects, designers, and other industry professionals—helps members see the value of participating in events such as this.

The AIA Iowa’s advocacy platform includes three primary principles: livable communities, resilient communities, and quality design. These overarching issues inform the group’s position on legislation affecting energy efficiency, school safety, building codes, and project delivery.

This year the committee has compiled a number of documents for members in advance of their Hill day, highlighting AIA Iowa’s talking points on the primary issues.

“We don’t schedule appointments with legislators in advance,” Reinert explains. “But based on where each bill stands on that particular day, our members can sign up to meet with their individual representatives to share their expertise on the various legislation before them.”

Although Reinert says it’s difficult to track “results” of the design professionals who meet with legislators on the Hill days, AIA does follow the progress of the bills the AIA has advocated for or against.

“We begin planning the next year’s event as soon as the legislative session ends,” she says. “Our committee members look back at the session, talk to our members and other organizations, and begin looking ahead to legislation that may be in discussion for the next session immediately.”

Home Builders Association of Iowa

Like the AIA Iowa, the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Iowa is not new to legislative advocacy.

“The HBA of Iowa was founded in 1959, and we have been participating in legislative and regulatory advocacy since the beginning,” says Executive Officer Jay Iverson. He adds that empowering member involvement has gotten easier as technology has developed, making it possible for HBA members to participate remotely as well as in person.

“Today’s legislator wants to hear from constituents,” Iverson says, especially when advocacy is conveyed in a respectful, businesslike manner, as these association events are done.

The HBA of Iowa has not promoted bus-in days for its 2019 event; however, Iverson expects approximately 50 member attendees. “We always schedule our own Hill visit day, combining it with our HBA of Iowa Board of Directors meeting. In 2018 we began meeting at the Capitol for the entire day. There was tremendous success in our invitations to leadership to attend our lunch meeting prior to our Board meeting, so we’re doing the same thing this year,” he explains.

Objectives change from year to year, depending on legislative activity. But one thing remains the same, according to Iverson. “Our core values don’t change: affordable housing, tax reform, skilled trades initiatives, construction codes and standards, housing finance, business regulation, insurance, labor, land development, energy, and environment. Because of our industry’s importance to the overall economy, we’ve had tremendous success in our efforts,” Iverson says. “But it’s always ongoing.”

He adds, “We have a long list of bills that we are monitoring, with more on the way. We believe that we have a business-friendly assembly to work with, and our goals are always to help our members succeed in every facet of our industry.”

Iowa REALTORS® Association

For more than two decades, the Iowa REALTORS® Association has been organizing political advocacy events at the Capitol, and the association has had tremendous participation from members.

Although the advocacy event is held in January or February, the association begins planning for the next event the summer before. Gavin Blair, CEO, says, “We also promote the event in a variety of ways, in our REALTOR® magazine, through email newsletters, and on social media and our website. Local associations help promote it as well.”

It’s no surprise that the group typically has 250 to 300 participants each year. “We have buses coming from the main metro areas across the state,” Blair says.

Members may attend the kick-off luncheon, which includes a keynote speaker who understands the value of being engaged in advocacy. Then the afternoon is spent meeting with legislators.

Blair says, “We try to set up afternoon meetings in advance so members know they’ll have an opportunity to speak to their respective legislators. And we provide talking points for them, too.”

Because those meeting times can be limited, the association also hosts an evening reception for both REALTORS® and legislators. “Sometimes the legislators have committee meetings in the afternoon and are unavailable for meetings,” Blair explains. “The reception is another way to engage with them and have more-lengthy one-on-one conversations.”

From the beginning, the REALTORS® association has sought to encourage its members’ engagement in issues that impact real estate, private property rights, and the lives of Iowa homeowners. This year is no exception.

It’s not too late to get involved!