25 April 2013

A Bit of Politics and Interior Design

 

Please allow me to broach the subject of Regulation of Interior Design in Texas.    While I know this may not be a topic on everyone’s mind, it is a very important issue to those in this field who currently work in this state. 

A bit of history:   Way back in 2008, I wrote an article on licensing for interior designers HERE.  At that time, Kelly Wearstler, the legendary interior designer, was not allowed to practice in Florida – because she wasn’t licensed by the state.  Two other very talented and well known designers, Philip Sides and Juan Montoya, also ran afoul of Florida’s laws.   Worse, were all the others who were fined – people without national exposure and without deep pockets.  The state made quite on bundle on fining these designers.   The issue was shocking to me and others and for months, people left comments on this story – arguing their case for and against regulation. 

In Texas – at that time – we had our own laws to deal with.  You weren’t allowed to call yourself an Interior Designer unless you were licensed by the state – after passing a rigorous test.  Of course, most who WERE licensed had been grandfathered in without even having to take the test. 

How far did this law go?   There was a prominent designer here in Houston who was referred to by a magazine as an Interior Designer.   He was fined because of this.   Most galling was that he never even had called himself anything but a decorator.  That law has since been repealed. 

But, now, again, the ugly subject is being raised in this new legislative session in Austin.

A group of licensed interior designers and others in the field are seeking complete deregulation of interior design in Texas.    Unfortunately, this group “Texans for Interior Design Deregulation”  recently lost their first bid – out maneuvered by high priced lobbyists.  Now, this grassroots group is asking for your support of Sunset Bill, SB205 that keeps the exam requirement in place.   The bill would require those originally grandfathered in (the majority)  be required to now take the NCIDQ examination. 

The reasoning behind this bill is threefold.   First, grandfathering perpetrates a fraud on the public who rely on state information to be accurate.  Second, it puts non-NCIDQ designers at an unfair disadvantage competitively. 

And third,  the majority would not bother to take the examination because they either don’t qualify, don’t want to pay the fees, don’t want to take the time to study for it, or just find it unnecessary.  By forcing those grandfathered in to retake the examination, the number of registered interior designers would be greatly reduced – causing an economic burden for the state to fund the board  - thereby making it easier to get the repeal at the next session.

The issue is complex.  Basically – many in the field believe there is no need at all for regulation of interior design.   No one has ever been injured or killed by unregulated ID.  The profession does not pose a risk to the health, safety & welfare of the public – traditional reasons which are causes for regulation.  Yet, the few in power want regulation in order to maintain this power and control and to stomp out competition.  

As it is now, this elite group decides which schools are accredited and which are not.  For instance, if you graduate with an Interior Design degree from Houston Community College – a very popular school – you are not eligible to sit for the examination.  Only a few number of schools in the state are deemed worthy of producing interior designers.  Imagine.   What on earth are they teaching at UT that they aren’t teaching at HCC?  I dare say – nothing, especially for those who practice residential design. 

Deregulation is also important when considering the infamous slippery slope.  For instance in bordering Louisiana, their Practice Act laws are so Draconian that under certain circumstances, designing a house is not allowed by a decorator – it must be done by a registered designer. 

This lack of the need of regulation is further evidenced by examining Louisiana.   The videos of Louisiana's Interior Design Board meetings are available on the internet to watch.  One advocate for deregulation watched a year’s worth of these meetings where not one consumer complaint was presented against a designer.  Not one.  Instead the board spent over 90 percent of their time discussing how to educate the public on the importance of designer licensing. 

While there are certain laws involved in designing hospitals and hotels, regulating who can decorate a house is asinine.  No one has ever been hurt in their home by the work done by an unregulated interior designer.  But don’t think those in power haven’t tried to  make a case.  Those pushing for regulation searched for years to find a case of injury or death caused by a designer – with no luck at all. 

The activist in Texas leading the cause against regulation is Kelley Barnett who is registered and is a recent former president of the Texas ASID.  She has since let her membership lapse after learning how much of the dues money went to hire lobbyists for the regulation cause.  Barnett is well aware of the what goes on behind the scenes with these lobbyists, the ASID, and the examination board.   Kelley is also the founder of “Texans for Interior Design Deregulation."   - the grassroots organization with 1,000s of members leading the fight for deregulation.    

If you are interested – how can you help?  Kelley is asking that everyone who is fighting against Texas regulation of interior designers to please sign their petition in support of Sunset Bill, SB205, as received from the House of Representatives on 4/22/13, WITH the exam requirement in place.  Time is of essence.  Please sign this as soon as possible. 

Go HERE to sign the petition.   Remember, this is an urgent matter and the petition needs to be signed quickly.   You do not need to be a citizen of Texas to sign the petition.

To contact Kelley for more information -  email her here:

  kelley@kelleybarnett.com 

and she will be happy to further explain this issue to you.

 

If you ARE in support of regulation, please feel free to state your case in the comment section.  You may do so anonymously or you may leave your name – either way.   I know I would be interested in hearing your opinion on this issue. 

 

 

Thank you so much for reading this.