Melissa Destree Takes Advocacy Efforts to the Next Level

Earlier this year, IIDA recognized Melissa Destree, IIDA, AIA, principal architect, interior designer, Destree Architecture and Design, as the 2017 Advocate of the Year for her dedication and commitment to interior design advocacy. Melissa serves as vice president of advocacy of the IIDA Wisconsin Chapter. After filling a multiyear-long vacancy, Melissa began the process of restructuring and reforming the chapter’s advocacy committee. Here she talks about how the perception of interior design has changed, why advocacy continues to evolve, and the importance of working with lobbyists.

IIDA: Why is advocacy important to you personally?

Melissa: During the 2008 recession, I was dismayed that so many interior designers were let go and architects were going to just ‘do their job.’  As an architect and interior designer, I had a unique perspective and appreciation for both specialties. A few years later, I heard confessions from architects that interior design is complex, fast paced, and demands organizational skills. They had no idea. Having gone through that experience, many architects now appreciate what the commercial interior designer brings to the team. This is what inspired me to get more involved. We all have the power to make change and advocacy is the tool to make our profession stronger.

Why should chapters invest time and money into advocacy?

Advocacy is the conduit to affect change and reinforce legislation to support our profession. We need the enthusiasm of our fellow interior designers to push us forward. Unfortunately, we cannot expect to do this effectively on our own. We need funds to engage lobbyists to assist with advocacy. This past year, our Wisconsin lobbyists have opened so many doors and provided so many opportunities for interior designers in Wisconsin to tell our stories. They helped us quench a threat from the anti-licensure policy wonks and are helping us build momentum to pursue opportunities for the practice of interior design.

Why do you think it’s important to build relationships with your local and state government officials?

This year, at our Capitol Day event, when we met with legislators at the State Capitol, they were overwhelmingly pleased. We introduced ourselves, discussed recent projects, and reinforced that we have a voluntary registration in Wisconsin. We shared how our profession impacts the state economy. We were not there demanding something from our legislators. We were there to build relationships and educate. From that relationship building, we have democrat and republican supporters of the interior design profession. This momentum has encouraged us to propose revised legislation with a seal provision for commercial interior designers.

How do you think being an advocate has changed over the last five or ten years?

Ten years ago, our chapter did not have a VP of Advocacy. I was recruited after my chapter presidency to fill this position, develop an advocacy strategy, and work with our interior design collation in Wisconsin. But even five years ago, it was not on our chapter’s radar to hire a lobbyist. In 2015, IIDA and ASID members determined that the best advocacy approach for our state was to dissolve our coalition and partner together with the support of IIDA HQ and National ASID advocacy experts. Then in 2016, conservative and libertarian policy groups, with their anti-licensure stance, were spreading false information about the Interior Design profession throughout Wisconsin. We needed to get on the field and defend our profession. We hired a lobbyist in January 2017. We were prepared!

What have you learned as an advocate and VP of Advocacy that other advocates should know?

The toughest part of advocacy is to take the first step to get involved. Once you meet your first legislator or do your first volunteer activity, you you see the benefit to both yourself and the profession.


Get involved with interior design advocacy at advocacy.iida.org.

IIDA Members Testify in Ohio to Defeat Proposed Sales Tax on Interior Design Services

A proposed sales tax in Ohio, introduced in the state budget bill in January 2017, sought to tax interior design and decoration services. The tax provision would have put Ohio’s interior designers at a disadvantage in relation to interior designers in neighboring states, as well as other design professionals whose services are not taxed. IIDA, together with the American Society for Interior Designers (ASID), mobilized a grassroots advocacy campaign and successfully defeated the proposed tax.

Here, Tamra Fuscaldo, IIDA, NCIDQ, an interior designer for healthcare, higher education, and corporate facilities, and the past president of the IIDA Ohio Kentucky Chapter, shares her experience testifying before the Ohio Legislature about the negative effects the proposed sales tax would have had on the Interior Design industry in Ohio.

IIDA: Why was it important for you to get involved and testify in front of the Ohio Legislature?

Tamra Fuscaldo: I have been in the Interior Design industry for over 25 years. I feel that it is my responsibility to stand up for our profession. We are continually misunderstood and mislabeled, and I will do whatever I can to change that narrative.

IIDA: What key points were used in Ohio that made a big impact?

TF: For the legislation involving taxing of luxury services in Ohio, the bill was written with too broad of a definition. The intent was to tax the consumers, those who might have discretionary funds, when hiring a residential interior designer or decorator, referred to as business to consumer (B2C). I wanted to make it clear that the definition included commercial interior designers, those who worked in the business to business (B2B) sector. Commercial interior designers typically have at least a four-year degree, pass the NCIDQ, and have years of specialized experience in interiors. Moreover, with this tax, project costs would rise, impacting budgets and causing small firms to lower their fees in order to compete. Essentially, this was a tax on professional services not luxury services.

IIDA: What were the keys to success in Ohio?

TF: The profession of interior design has a long way to go in terms of advocacy. The public, including our legislative representatives, do not have a clear understanding of the complexity of our industry. During our hearings, we represented the Interior Design industry well, and I hope we were able to change the perspectives of legislators who were present. Ultimately, we have to show value in our profession in a way that puts us on par with architects and engineers. The key to success in Ohio was being able to define interior design to legislators as a professional and technical industry that benefits the public.


Want to learn more about advocating for the Interior Design profession? Join us at the next IIDA Advocacy Symposium.

IIDA New England: Committed to Interior Design Advocacy Through Action

Over the last 18 months, the IIDA New England Chapter – with help from IIDA HQ – has hired a lobbying firm, actively engaged with ASID legislative leaders, reached out to the Massachusetts design community, met with lawmakers and officials, and introduced an interior design registration bill into the Massachusetts State Legislature. Undertaking an initiative of this size and scope is no small task and requires a team effort as well as strong leadership. Aimee M. Schefano, Vice President of Advocacy for the New England Chapter, has led the charge, working diligently to convey the importance of this initiative both to the Chapter board and local design leaders.

The lesson learned by IIDA New England? IIDA Chapters have power when it comes to advocacy. Board members are leaders in the design community, and as such, have an amplified voice. When those voices are conveying the same message, real change can happen. If an issue is important to the profession, it is too important to sit on the sidelines.

In addition to the amplified voice of board members, IIDA Chapters can reallocate funding to support advocacy initiatives. While there are many priorities in a Chapter’s budget— from professional development initiatives to events—boards can help rearrange how funding is used, create new revenue streams, or prioritize advocacy and legislation above other initiatives. IIDA New England demonstrated this by using their chapter funds to engage with one of the preeminent lobbying firms in New England.

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It has also proven important for the Chapter to work together with other associations in order to build a strong network of professionals working to advance a common goal. Schefano and Past-President Corinne Barthelemy have worked with ASID New England to create the Massachusetts Advocacy Council of ASID and IIDA, operating under the two chapters and facilitating the shared mission to advance the profession of interior design.

“Educating our profession is crucial to progress. Part of that education requires IIDA members to work collaboratively with other industry leaders. We are never stronger than when we all stand together against adversity,” said Schefano. “In Massachusetts, the design community is represented by a multitude of associations. What has helped us evolve our advocacy strategy is acknowledging that ultimately we are all interior designers, and that is what is most important. “

Through unified voices, effective funding, and organizational collaborations, IIDA New England has set a foundation that will surely lead to advocacy successes in Massachusetts.


For more on interior design advocacy, visit advocacy.iida.org

Deregulation Bills: What Do They Mean for Interior Designers?

Deregulation bills are pieces of legislation introduced by state legislators to remove part or all interior design laws in a particular state. Read on to learn more about deregulation bills and how you can get involved with advocating for the interior design industry.

Who is behind these efforts to deregulation interior design and other professions and occupations?

There isn’t one answer to this question. A legislator may have been asked to sponsor the bill by a constituent. However, several national organizations have made decreasing occupational and professional regulation a priority, including but not limited to the Institute for Justice and Americans for Prosperity. These organizations and supporters of the deregulation legislation believe that occupational and professional regulation makes it difficult for people to enter those professions, increases the cost of services by those professions, and does not protect the public.

Why should interior design be regulated?

Commercial interior designers are more than they are perceived to be. They have a tangible impact on the interior environment.

  • Regulation shows consumers and clients that an individual has met government-approved standards of education, experience, and examination.
  • Regulation gives consumers an avenue for redress.
  • Regulation demonstrates that the profession of interior design is on par with architects, landscape architects, and engineers for their prescribed scope of work.
  • Regulation expands economic opportunities for interior designers.
  • Regulation can and should include expanded privileges, such as the ability to submit their work to a building department for a permit and ability to own their own design firm.

What is IIDA doing to combat these bills?

IIDA monitors legislation in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Congress on a daily basis. We closely monitor any legislation that pertains to the industry, but especially to attempts to undermine legislative progress. In addition, IIDA maintains open dialogue with hired lobbyists, coalitions, and ASID National. IIDA recognizes the importance of the legislative progress and continues to advocate for the voluntary registration or certification of interior designers.

In January, IIDA worked cooperatively with the Virginia/West Virginia and Mid-Atlantic IIDA Chapters and with ASID national and their Virginia chapters to combat successfully HB1824, which would have deregulated interior design in Virginia.

What can I do?

First, be aware of the laws in your state. If an action alert is sent by IIDA, ASID, or a coalition, act on those alerts. Connect with your legislator to let them know you’re an interior designer and why you care about interior design registration. No one can speak better about your profession than you.


To learn more about interior design advocacy, visit advocacy.iida.org.

Advocacy Spotlight: New Report Makes the Case for Interior Design Licensing in California

IIDA Chapters and interior design coalitions are on the front lines of state-level advocacy. Starting today, we are spotlighting the advocacy efforts of these organizations, beginning with the Interior Design Coalition of California. 

Article contributed by the Interior Design Coalition of California.

On Oct. 4, 2016, the Little Hoover Commission released their report on Occupational Licensing in California. The report makes a case for licensing commercial interior design in California, despite interior design was used as an example of a profession that should not be licensed at the first hearing and in initial discussions between commission staff and the Interior Design Coalition of California’s (IDCC) lobbyists. Continued discussions with Commission staff and IDCC testimony in subsequent hearings resulted in the case for the licensing of commercial design.

The Little Hoover Commission is an independent state oversight agency that was created in 1962. The Commission’s mission is to investigate state government operations and promote efficiency, economy, and improved service. By statute, the Commission is a balanced bipartisan board composed of five citizen members appointed by the Governor, four citizen members appointed by the Legislature, two Senators and two Assembly members. The Commission selects study topics that come to its attention from citizens, legislators, and other sources. In addition, it has a statutory obligation to review and make recommendations on proposed government reorganization plans.

This year, the Commission took on the challenge of putting together a series of thoughtful hearings to discuss occupational licensing in California. The focus of the Commission’s review is on the impact of occupational licensing on upward mobility and opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation for Californians, particularly those of modest means. The Commission also examined the result of occupational licensing on the cost and availability of services provided by licensed practitioners to consumers. Lastly, the Commission explored the balance between protecting consumers and enabling Californians to enter the occupation of their choice.

During the first hearing, one panelist raised interior designers as an example occupation that did not require licensure because the panelist confused the work of designers and decorators. To counter this point, the Interior Design Coalition of California (IDCC) was thrilled to participate in the second hearing in June.  Deborah Davis, FASID, director-at-large for IDCC, testified to the Commission regarding the work of interior designers and the need for interior designers to be licensed in the state of California. Davis was able to educate the Commission on our work and raise a variety of relevant points as to why licensure for interior designers working in the code-impacted environment would especially help those who own small businesses, 90 percent of whom happen to be women. The Commissioners responded well to Davis’ testimony, featuring our arguments in the final report. IDCC is looking forward to continued collaboration with the Little Hoover Commission and other stakeholders in the future as we continue to work towards our goals for the interior design profession in California in 2017 and beyond.

Read the Commission’s Full Report.


The Interior Design Coalition of California advocates for the legal recognition of qualified Interior Designers in the State of California. Through collaboration, education and advocacy, IDCC strives to present a unified voice for the California Interior Design community to support and protect the profession of interior design.

 

Passion and Practice in Action at the 2016 Advocacy Symposium

Today’s post is written by Stacey Crumbaker, IIDA, Assoc AIA, who attended the 2016 IIDA Advocacy Symposium in Denver on Sept. 23 – 25, 2016. 

The second annual IIDA Advocacy Symposium flew by – a whirlwind of thoughtful, impassioned conversations dedicated to advancing interior design recognition across the country. Hosted in Denver by IIDA and the Rocky Mountain Chapter, the Symposium was an opportunity for interior design advocates to connect, share best practices, and reinvigorate our collective passion for the profession.

Practicing at the intersection of architecture and interior design, I’ve been supporting interior design recognition since moving to Seattle in 2011 and serving as the Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs for the Northern Pacific Chapter. Coping with a recent defeat at the capitol, the Chapter had taken a step back to reframe our approach to the legislative process. Our focus shifted to a broader definition of advocacy, which included engaging our city communities and developing a shared vision among our industry professionals. In parallel, the IIDA International Board of Directors prioritized advocacy and launched a series of initiatives to support change, such as the Advocacy Symposium and Advisory Council.  Continue reading