Advocacy Spotlight: Intermountain Chapter and IDEAL for Utah

Interior Design Education and Legislation for Utah (IDEAL for Utah), the Utah interior design coalition, introduced interior design legislation during the Utah State Legislature’s 2015 session. The Intermountain Chapter, IDEAL for Utah, and their lobbyist, Amy Coombs, have worked diligently and passionately to support the legislation, which was introduced in both the Utah House of Representatives and the Utah Senate. We reached out to Coombs and Melanie Bahl, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, President of IDEAL for Utah, and asked them a few questions about the process and all of their hard work.

What helped the coalition decide this year was the year to introduce legislation?
Once we were able to detail the strategy and received positive feedback from those we tested the proposal with, we felt an attempt was warranted. We were like “blind mice” not knowing what we needed to do until we found a knowledgeable lobbyist, who was familiar with the industry.

What has surprised you about the legislative process?
We have been most surprised at how quickly things change. [We learned that] the legislative process is challenging. We also realized how uncertain things are and how relationships are interconnected. We have also learned the importance to leverage relationships whether it’s a family friend, a client, [or] a constituent. It’s necessary to connect individuals to build solid relationships.

We are also surprised how much is decided upon prior to the committee meetings. You must feel confident going into a committee meeting that you have provided the legislators with enough information that they feel confident voting in favor.

We’ve learned that it’s never too early to plant seeds and build relationships. Where we were once terrified to talk with legislators, we found that they are just like us, passionate with their beliefs and want to make things better. Have confidence when you speak with them knowing that you are the expert and it is your responsibility to educate them. Don’t underestimate the power in numbers — numbers contacting the legislators, numbers sending letters, numbers attending committee meetings.

Lastly, we are surprised how you can do everything right and not get the outcome desired.

What do you wish other people knew about interior design legislation?
Great question! We wish that the public was more aware of the value that interior designers bring to projects in their communities. We wish legislators would not be so dismissive at first regarding the issue. We don’t know how many times we have said, “It is so much more than pillows and paint.” Most people do not know the kind of projects that interior designers work on, the amount of education that is often required, and the current barriers to practice.
Furthermore, we want interior designers to realize that they are being limited. We wish interior designers were aware of the limitations placed on their ability to practice independently to their full [ability].

How has the IIDA Intermountain Chapter supported the legislative efforts?
[The Intermountain Chapter] has been instrumental in our efforts. Specifically, [the chapter] has offered support via the many conference calls where we discuss what has happened in previous states, evaluating bill language, communications/ email campaigns, and especially in educational materials. A large factor in calculating success comes from the availability of accurate information and the accessibility of the advocacy team at IIDA is a tremendous benefit to coalitions.

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