Recently, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that the list of “Controlling Design Criteria” on lower-speed streets would go from 13 to two. This announcement will dramatically ease federal design standards for many neighborhood streets and roads and provide greater flexibility for transportation planners, including landscape architects, in designing multimodal transportation projects, Complete Streets, and other urban transportation networks.
In 1985, the agency established “13 Controlling Design Criteria” in an effort to create a simple, hard-to-break list of basic guidelines for street design. If communities wanted to design outside these criteria by, for example, reducing lane width to add a bike lane, street trees, and other traffic calming devices, they were forced to apply for an exception, which could be an arduous and time-consuming process. After a thorough review, FHWA determined that most of these guidelines were only appropriate for rural roads, freeways, and other high-speed roads. For federally-funded streets with traffic speeds below 50 miles per hour (mph), only “design loading structural capacity” (how much weight a bridge can bear) and “design speed” (how fast traffic is expected to be able to move safely) will now be regulated.
Last fall, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued the proposal to ease the design guidelines and requested comments, receiving 164 comments on the issue. During the comment period ASLA applauded FHWA’s efforts in removing barriers that have prevented many transportation planners and designers, like landscape architects, cities, and communities of all sizes from designing and building transportation networks that are safe and accessible for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. ASLA also noted that the proposed rule would allow for flexibility to create narrower lanes, which provides greater opportunity for bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and integrated vegetation management projects.
Learn more about FHWA’s Revisions to the Controlling Criteria for Design and Documentation for Design Exceptions here.
Recently, President Barack Obama and Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez announced a final rule that will automatically extend overtime pay eligibility to certain workers. The rule will entitle most salaried, white-collar workers earning less than $913 a week ($47,476 a year) to overtime pay.
The new rule does, however, maintain the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) exemption from both minimum wage and overtime requirements for employees employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees, which are sometimes referred to collectively as the “white collar” exemptions. To qualify for one of these “white collar” exemptions, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid a certain minimum salary. In order for an exemption to apply, an employee’s specific job duties and earnings must meet all of the applicable requirements.
Landscape architecture professionals who meet the new salary requirements of $913 a week, or $47,476 annually, will likely be exempt from overtime pay under the “learned professionals” exemption. To qualify as a “learned professional” under the standard test, all of the following requirements must be satisfied:
• The employee’s primary duty must be the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work that is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment.
• The advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning including law; medicine; theology; accounting; actuarial computation; engineering; architecture; teaching; various types of physical, chemical, and biological sciences; pharmacy; and other occupations that have a recognized professional status and are distinguishable from the mechanical arts or skilled trades where the knowledge could be of a fairly advanced type but is not in a field of science or learning,
• The advanced knowledge must be customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction, which means specialized academic training is a standard prerequisite for entry into the profession.
It is important to note that meeting this “learned professionals” criteria alone does NOT satisfy all the criteria and tests to meet the “white collar” exemptions. Employers are encouraged to carefully examine all the applicable tests along with your employees’ specific job descriptions, duties, and compensation packages to determine if ALL the criteria for the “white collar” exemption are met. Therefore, it may be prudent to consult with a human resources professional and/or legal counsel to ensure compliance with the rule.
The new rule also addresses bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions in order to recognize the importance these forms of pay have in many companies’ compensation arrangements, particularly for managerial employees affected by the final rule.
The Department of Labor has published a Small Entity Compliance Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s White Collar Exemption to assist small businesses, like small landscape architecture firms, understand and comply with the new rule. There is also a DOL website devoted to resources and other guidance on the new overtime rule.
The overtime pay final rule goes into effect December 1, 2016. Future automatic updates to the salary thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.
ASLA Advocacy Day 2016 brought students and professional landscape architects to Capitol Hill to advocate for policies important to the profession. Participants attended congressional meetings with their legislators with the objective of raising the visibility of the profession among policy makers and key staff. They also sought to educate them on the many ways that landscape architects provide solutions to some of the problems facing our communities.
This year’s Advocacy Day was a huge success! A total of 181 attendees, 21 of whom were students, had 214 meetings, including 67 with legislators. This year, advocates urged passage the National Park Service Centennial Challenge legislation and promoted green infrastructure in transportation projects. Advocates also did an outstanding job forwarding their legislative issues through Twitter and the Advocacy Day hashtag #iAdvocate, which resulted in 130 original tweets by Advocacy Day participants, 528 replies and/or retweets that reached the timelines of more than 129, 000 Twitter users; Overall, messages delivered to the Twitter stream of 2,931,419 accounts, known as impressions.
For ASLA members who did not attend Advocacy Day, ASLA launched a virtual advocacy day, where advocates could send messages and tweets on the Advocacy Day issues to their legislators in Washington, D.C. Virtual advocates sent messages urging support for the Support the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial Challenge Fund and Support Green Infrastructure in Transportation Projects.
An Advocacy Day evening reception was held on Thursday, May 19, which recognized and honored a few of ASLA’s outstanding advocates including Jon Wreschinksky, ASLA, of the San Diego Chapter and Susan Maag, ASLA, of the St. Louis Chapter, who received the ASLA Advocacy Leadership Award. In addition, the North Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architets received the ASLA Chapter of the Year Advocacy Award.
From ASLA President Chad Danos, FASLA,
I encourage every ASLA member to complete the ASLA 2017-2018 Federal and State Legislative Priorities Survey that will help determine the ASLA Federal Legislative Agenda for the upcoming 115th Congress and will help shape your Chapter’s state legislative activities. This year, we are combining the Federal Priorities survey with the State Advocacy Priorities survey to make it more convenient for members to make their voices heard.
The Society’s mission is to advance the profession of landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education, and fellowship. ASLA is an advocate for the profession at the local, state, and national levels on public policy issues (https://www.asla.org/GovernmentAffairs.aspx) including licensure, transportation planning and design, stormwater management, community design and development, community parks and trails, small business development, and more.
In recent years, ASLA achieved some critical legislative successes, including helping thwart several state attacks on licensure, working with chapters to upgrade landscape architecture practice acts and advancing licensure in the District of Columbia. On the federal side, ASLA staved off several attacks to active transportation programs, worked to adopt the first ever federal Complete Streets policy, pushed increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and more. Even as advocacy continues for these and other issues, the process is now beginning to determine which federal advocacy issues will be a priority for the Society in the upcoming 115th Congress in 2017-2018 and to help shape your local chapters’ upcoming advocacy efforts.
Once ASLA receives your responses, the ASLA Government Affairs Advisory Committee (GAAC) will analyze, review, and vet the federal information to recommend a 2017-2018 Federal Legislative Priorities Agenda. During the ASLA Annual Meeting, the Board of Trustees will provide input on the recommended agenda, with the Executive Committee providing final endorsement in late 2016. Results from the state policy questions will be compiled into a report for the chapters to assist them with developing critical state and local policy priorities and advocacy plans.
Please take a moment to complete the ASLA Federal and State Legislative Priorities Survey to tell us about issues that are important to you. As a former ASLA vice president of Government Affairs, I can assure you that your responses are essential to the development of the agenda. Please complete your survey by Tuesday, May 31.
Take this opportunity to shape ASLA’s future political landscape.
Chad Danos, FASLA,
American Society of Landscape Architects
Learn more about ASLA’s advocacy efforts at www.asla.org/advocacy.
Webinar: Complete Streets Implementation and Design
April 28, 2016
Hundreds of communities across the country have adopted Complete Streets policies—the next step is to implement them. This webinar will help transportation planners and practitioners do just that.