Bill defining role of interior designers imperiled by turf battle with architects


ANNAPOLIS -- Delegate Dana Lee Dembrow, D-Montgomery, told the House Economic Matters Committee yesterday that he had managed to negotiate a compromise between Maryland architects and interior designers that had brought a four-year turf battle to an end.

"You've got the Midas touch," committee Chairman Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, told him.

"Just lucky, I guess," Mr. Dembrow replied.

Before the afternoon ran out, so had his luck.

A group of designers who signed up to testify in support of a bill that would restrict the work they are permitted to do spent the afternoon explaining how the architects had betrayed them and why the legislation shouldn't pass as drafted.

The bill would create a licensing board for designers and prohibit unlicensed practitioners from using the name Certified Interior Designer.

It also describes the types of practices permitted for designers and prohibits them from practicing architecture.

In a hallway meeting with the designers after the hearing, Mr. Dembrow laid out the message he had heard from committee members.

"It's amazing that 18 people could sign up in support of the bill and the committee could be left with the impression that you're opposed to it," he said.

He said the designers' only chance at getting the changes they want was to pass the bill this year, "get your foot in the door" and come back next year to try to make any desired changes.

"This bill is going to go down very soon unless we get a very clear statement that this group wants the bill, and the testimony was a little mixed up," Mr. Dembrow said.

Members of the group said they would meet, probably today, to decide whether they can draft such a statement.

Their main objection to the bill deals with work called space planning and a prohibition on drawing up plans for walls that do not bear loads within a building.

A similar bill, sponsored by Delegate George H. Littrell Jr., D-Frederick, would allow builders and developers to design one- and two-family houses without the use of an architect. They have been doing such design work for years, but a recent ruling by the state Architectural Board appeared to reverse that, Mr. Littrell told the committee.

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