State Legislative Regulatory Matters
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the October 2015EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the June 2015EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the February 2015EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the October 2014 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the February 2014 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the September 2013 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the June 2013 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the February 2013 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the November 2012 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant State Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the June 2012 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the January 2012 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the October 2011 EJCDC Meeting.
Please click the link below for a new document of Significant Legal and Legislative Activities compiled for the May 2011 EJCDC Meeting.
The following was compiled for the September 2009 EJCDC Meetings:
New Jersey Society Protects PE Role in Site Remediation – The New Jersey Society of Professional Engineers has gained protection for the PE license by successfully lobbying for changes to legislation designed to speed up site remediation.
The legislation (S. 1897/A.2962), introduced last June, would establish a licensing program for professionals performing site remediation. The legislation’s intent is to deal with permit backlogs and streamline the permitting process by prequalifying individuals to prepare and submit plans to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The legislation was passed by both houses on March 16 and was signed into law by Governor John Corzine on May 7.
In testimony to the Senate Environment Committee and the deputy commissioner of NJDEP, New Jersey Society Legal Counsel Lawrence Powers and other society representatives called for a bill that protects the public by adhering to the state’s engineering practice statute, which limits who can provide remediation services. According to Powers, the original bill language would have created a class of quasi-engineering professionals who could prepare and submit permit applications and site remediation plans without being licensed PEs.
The New Jersey Society persuaded legislators to amend the bill by adding language that would prohibit a licensed site professional from practicing engineering, and professional engineers who want to be a licensed site professional would be required to take only the technical engineering portion of the proposed site professional licensing exam. Powers says that NJDEP wanted a demonstration of competence by PEs that would be acting on behalf of the department in pre-approving site remediation plans under the program.
Bill to Protect Homeowners Puts Design Professionals at Risk – Washington design professionals are speaking out against legislation aimed at protecting homebuyers because they say the bill will result in unfair liability for architects and engineers.
The bill (H.B. 1393), introduced in January, aims to protect consumers from poor residential construction. The bill would, among other things, establish worker certification standards and establish a home construction board to handle disputes related to residential construction.
“There’s an issue where there has been shoddy construction by the contracting industry for some time, particularly on residential construction,” says Ken McGowan, P.E., who represents the Washington Society of Professional Engineers on the Architects & Engineers Legislative Council.
“Some homeowners have moved into their new home only to discover after two years that there are infiltration issues, mold issues, and differential settlement of the foundation. Usually the homeowner has no remedy if a small contractor is involved.”
The council is a lobbying coalition that includes the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Landscape Architects, IEEE, the Land Surveyors Association of Washington, as well as the Washington chapters of the American Council of Engineering Companies, the American Institute of Architects, and the Structural Engineers Association.
The council is concerned that the bill would expose design professionals to unfair litigation and financial strain. “Design professionals that continue to do residential [work] would have to do so without professional liability coverage,” says McGowan. “Their only alternative would be to get out of the residential design practice, and if that’s their primary source of income, they would be in deep trouble.
Liability Exposure Concerns New Hampshire PEs – New Hampshire PEs are opposing a bill that would change the way juries assess damages in civil cases because of concern that the bill would increase engineers’ liability exposure.
The bill (H.B. 197), introduced on January 7, allows a jury to allot responsibility for damages only to parties that remain before the court at the conclusion of a trial. Matthew Low, P.E., president of the New Hampshire Society of Professional Engineers, says that the organization is not opposed to fair compensation of victims in civil lawsuits but believes there should be a sense of fairness when determining who pays what portion of the damages. Similar legislation introduced two years ago was vetoed by Governor John Lynch. “The bill language has been simplified. It looks very innocent, but it carries a big stick,” Low says. “The business community got caught off guard before, but this time we were ready.”
Low expressed the New Hampshire Society’s concern about the bill. In a March 25 letter to Lynch, Low wrote that the bill “will significantly increase liability exposure of professional engineers without limits even where the design professional is found only partially at fault.” He added: “This additional exposure to liability in New Hampshire will negatively impact engineering firms across the state, making each potentially liable for 100 percent of damages despite the level of actual responsibility.”
Low pointed out that the increased risk of unfair awards will force engineers to settle cases, even if they are not at fault and will negatively effect the engineering profession. “At a time when more engineers are needed to meet increasing infrastructure and societal needs and fewer people are entering the engineering profession, we should be improving the conditions in which engineers practice, not creating unnecessary risks for them,” he wrote.
Low also mentioned that the legislation could raise engineers’ insurance premiums, and the added costs would be passed to public and private clients.
The New Hampshire chapters of the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Society of Civil Engineers, as well as the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, are also opposed to the legislation.
Again, Licensing Law Reform Moves Forward in California – California legislators and engineering groups are once again trying to change the state’s PE licensing system to make it similar to the licensing systems in most other states.
The legislation (S.B. 275), introduced on February 24, would reform California’s licensing law to allow anyone licensed as a PE to practice engineering in the field or fields in which he or she is competent. The bill is supported by the California Legislative Council of Professional Engineers, which includes the California Society of Professional Engineers and 12 other engineering groups.
California’s current licensing system runs counter to NSPE’s support for the concept of licensure of engineers only as “professional engineers,” not by designated branches or specialties. The system is a complicated mix of “practice act” disciplines (civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering) and nine “title act” disciplines (agricultural, chemical, control system, fire protection, industrial, metallurgical, nuclear, petroleum, and traffic engineering).
Anyone, licensed or not, is permitted to practice in the title act disciplines. Licensees, however, are the only ones allowed to use the titles on business cards, on stationery, and in advertisements. Title act licensees are permitted to use the title “professional engineer,” but they are not permitted to practice civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering, as defined by California law.
In the practice act disciplines of civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, only licensees are permitted to practice in these areas and use the titles.
The system has negative consequences for engineering practice. It creates confusion over the kinds of work each PE is allowed to perform, and it creates an environment in which practice overlap and turf battles are common.
Attempts to change California’s licensing law have been going on for years. In the 1990s, the state licensing board was unable to end discipline-specific licensure, and in 2002 it published a study calling for practice protection for all disciplines. The study was followed in 2005 by legislation that would have enacted the board’s recommendations, but the bill never made it out of committee.
Bob Katin, P.E., president of the California Legislative Council of Professional Engineers, is hopeful that the new legislation will become law. “The bill is sponsored by users of engineering services, and they are saying that the law is broken, so fix it,” he says. “It’s costing industry and ultimately taxpayers more to follow this law.”
Katin also believes that a new licensing law will help Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger meet his goal of bringing 20,000 new engineers into the state’s workforce.
A public hearing on S.B. 275 was scheduled by the Senate Business, Professions, and Economic Development Committee for April 20.
Compiled for the February 19-20, 2010 EJCDC Meeting
Wisconsin Becomes First State To Require BIM on Public Projects – On July 1, Wisconsin became the first state to require the use of building information modeling (BIM) software on most public projects, a move that could trigger 3D modeling requirements across the country.
The new regulations call for architects and structural engineers to use BIM authoring software and engineers in other disciplines to use authoring software or discipline-specific 3D modeling programs. The software is required on all projects totaling more than $5 million in cost and new construction projects totaling $2.5 million in cost, but is encouraged on all projects.
Wisconsin tested the requirements starting in 2008 on a pilot program of 13 construction projects totaling $300 million. The Wisconsin Division of State Facilities, which authored and issued the requirements, was sufficiently convinced that the regulations could be applied to all large public projects and made the standards official on June 25 of this year.
In 2006, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed an executive order requiring all state buildings to meet high environmental efficiency standards. The Department of Administration, which includes the Division of State Facilities (DSF), began developing guidelines for meeting the executive order and quickly realized BIM would be the best tool to meet those standards. Officials liked the cost effectiveness and ease of BIM software and decided to try applying it to all state facilities and operations.
Wisconsin officials asked the public to submit comments on the regulations via an online discussion forum, where DSF officials have answered questions on every aspect of the guidelines.
DSF even listed five types of BIM authoring software that are pre-approved for use: Autodesk Revit Architecture, Structure, and MEP; Bentley Architecture; Graphisoft ArchiCAD; Nemetschek AllPlan; and Tekla Structures. DSF also “will consider other software products subject to their capabilities, features and benefits to the state,” according to the official BIM Guidelines and Standards document.
“As long as the BIM authoring software can perform to meet the requirements of these standards and guidelines, that is the determining issue for acceptance,” Bill Napier, P.E., Wisconsin Department of Administration project manager, says in the discussion forum.
Some commenters on the BIM discussion forum worried that if the architects and engineers on a project use different types of software, some sort of third-party program would be needed to coordinate all the designs. Napier reassures that planners would not need this sort of “collaborator” program.
“DSF recognizes that not all team consultants will have the same BIM authoring software. The requirement to coordinate disciplines is not new,” Napier says. “DSF does not expect each consultant to purchase model checking software—what is required in these standards is that the model be checked [by all involved planners].”
On August 12, the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) announced it will adopt BIM requirements, with hopes to become the first state to require the software on all public projects. For now, Texas will require BIM on projects of a certain cost, similar to Wisconsin.
“We have a chance to improve the traditional process,” says Chris Tisdel, director of BIM for TFC, in an informational video on the TFC Web site. “We are standing on the cusp of a technology and process revolution that will change industry forever.”
Texas officials have not announced when the BIM requirements will take effect, or to what types of projects they will apply.
Louisiana Removes PE Requirement for DOT Position – Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation on June 19 that removes the PE license requirement for one of the top positions at the Department of Transportation and Development.
The new law cut the PE requirement for the assistant secretary in the Office of Public Works and Intermodal Transportation, a position that is currently vacant. Louisiana’s action follows other recent cases of state and local governments dropping the PE requirement for engineering related positions. Several NSPE state societies, including the New York State Society of Professional Engineers and the Nebraska Society of Professional Engineers, have worked to stop efforts to eliminate PE requirements from critical government positions.
Last year, the Nebraska Society lobbied state legislators to maintain the PE requirement for the director of the Department of Natural Resources. And in New York, NYSSPE and NSPE opposed plans by the New York City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to remove a licensed design professional requirement for the Department of Buildings commissioner.
While a PE license is no longer mandatory for the assistant secretary in Louisiana’s Office of Public Works and Intermodal Transportation, the new law also cut the specific language stating that the assistant secretary is responsible for approving plans, specifications, and estimates for the construction of all facilities and office projects.
Maryland PEs Join Emergency Response Effort – Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many people were inspired to serve their country. David Thaler, P.E., F.NSPE, was no exception. After the twin towers fell, the past president of the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers began looking for a way to mobilize the skills of the Maryland engineering community in times of civil emergency.
It took him years to find the vehicle, but now he and about 19 other members of the Maryland Society of Professional Engineers are serving in the Maryland Defense Force, a component of the Maryland Military Department that supports the state’s National Guard. Its mission: to aid in recovery efforts after natural or manmade disasters and help defend the state and country and their security interests.
Thaler discovered the Defense Force a little over a year ago and learned that it had an Engineer Corps. It was headed by former U.S. Navy Captain (now Colonel) Brian Kelm, P.E., “only, other than Col. Kelm they didn’t have any professional engineers in the Corps,” Thaler says. A partnership with MSPE was formed, and much of the state society’s senior leadership enlisted, as well as the chair and vice chair of the Maryland Board of Registration for Professional Engineers.
Within the Engineer Corps, the PEs formed the Maryland Engineering Emergency Response Team. The group trains in disaster preparation and in the event of a natural or manmade disaster, would deploy with the Maryland National Guard to conduct disaster assessments and assist in recovery efforts.
MEERT hasn’t needed to deploy yet. Still, Thaler explains that they prepare and train and “hope that we’ll never be needed, but I suspect that won’t be the case, and sooner or later we will answer the call.”
Meanwhile, the PEs’ talents aren’t put to waste. They serve in other nonemergency functions, such as conducting engineering analyses of the suitability of schools as disaster shelters.
The group also regularly examines the physical state of National Guard facilities and completes engineering reports that help determine repair funding. “We’d go out to the facility and see a wall that was ready to fall down and injure someone,” says Thaler. While the structural engineers on the team would recognize that the wall was a danger, he adds, the people running the facility wouldn’t.
The Maryland Defense Force’s history goes back to colonial state militia, but it was formally established during World War I. Its mission was to protect the home front while the Maryland State Guard (now the Maryland National Guard) deployed to Europe.
Members of the Maryland Defense Force are trained in medical, military, and emergency response topics and are authorized to wear a military uniform. They also advance in rank—either entering at the level held in previous military service or receiving ranks according to their education and experience. Thaler explains that PEs who join are commissioned as captains and EITs as lieutenants. As commander of the emergency response team, he is a lieutenant colonel.
NSPE member Steven Arndt, P.E., vice chair of the Maryland State Board for Professional Engineers, was recruited by Colonel Kelm and serves as the Engineers Corps’ deputy commander. Arndt explains that the group provides a very valuable service to the community and the state of Maryland. “It’s an opportunity where we can use our skills to show that [engineers are] there to help people,” he says.
Thaler says he gets a great sense of satisfaction from “being able to have the engineering profession volunteer our talents to help in times of civil disaster.” And there are other benefits: “You get to play with the cannons…. I call these Barbies for boys.”
To determine whether your state has a defense force and an engineer corps (or whether one can be started), start here: www.mddefenseforce.org/others.asp or www.mddefenseforce.org.
Washington Engineers Develop Training For Carbon Capture – The Washington Society of Professional Engineers is attacking excess carbon emissions head-on by developing a training program to create a workforce proficient in carbon capture and sequestration technologies. By next year, WSPE, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Environmental Outreach and Stewardship Alliance hope to begin offering classes around the Seattle area.
A carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) workforce “will be essential to meet the climate-change challenges facing not only the U.S. but other countries as well,” says WSPE Executive Director Willis Turner. “This workforce will be able to take advantage of new job opportunities that will also benefit the regional economy.”
The program will be funded by the Department of Energy, which granted the coalition nearly $1 million to develop a regional CCS training and certification program in the Northwest by 2012. The curriculum is based on practices that have been used in the oil industry for years, where oil companies inject compressed CO2 into rock formations to force the last remaining bits of oil to surface. The CO2 is then trapped in those deep rock formations.
Engineers believe the rising CO2 emissions in the atmosphere can be stemmed with CCS technology that would trap the emissions in basalt rock and other formations.
“We will be building on these [tested oil] technologies to evaluate [which] geologic areas have the right combination of geologic stability, porous rock to accommodate the CO2 and [have the necessary] extensive rock caps that will keep the CO2 from escaping,” Turner says.
The training courses will be offered as topic-specific lectures at conferences at the Environmental Outreach and Stewardship Alliance facility in south Seattle and as long-term, in-depth courses at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory offices in Richland, Washington. The courses will also be recorded and offered online to reduce the program’s carbon footprint, Turner says. Some experts believe CCS technology can help address climate change. In June, Ernie Moniz, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, published a report calling CCS a viable option to decrease CO2 levels in the atmosphere, especially those caused by coal manufacturing plants.
In recent years, CCS technology has increased rapidly. A West Virginia coal-fired power plant owned by American Electric Power is preparing to capture and pump about 1.5% of its CO2 emissions into the ground, and a plant in Wisconsin successfully carried out a carbon-capture pilot project in early October. Also last month, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $1.4 billion in stimulus funding for 12 carbon-capture projects at industrial sites.
While Turner and others have extolled the need for CCS to limit the future effect of carbon emissions, there are obstacles. Not every region of the country has access to the rock formations that support CCS—Washington is an ideal starting point because the generous basalt formations combine with CO2 to form solid minerals that can be stored indefinitely.