The fifth week of the 2015 legislative session closed Friday, Feb. 13. In that time, two specific bills important to engineers were filed along with an array of infrastructure funding bills.
First, S. 410, the updating of the engineers’ and surveyors’ practice act, was filed with an impressive list of sponsors including Senate Pro-Tempore/Finance Committee Chair, Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence). The bill was sent to the Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee which is chaired by Sen. Tom Alexander (R-Oconee) who also is a sponsor of the bill. A subcommittee meeting has not been set. Here is a link to the bill: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess121_2015-2016/bills/410.htm.
Lobbyists Adam B. Jones and Joe Jones, and engineers have been working with House Labor Commerce and Industry Committee Chair, Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-Oconee), and Rep. Nelson Hardwick, PE, (R-Horry) in preparation for introduction of the bill in the House of Representatives.
Click here for a one-page summary of the bill.
On the negative side, another senate bill has been introduced, S. 408, which adds a section to the State Procurement Code on acceptable piping material. Bills with similar language have surfaced in Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and Oklahoma. Passage has not been successful in these states at this time. The bill appears to be promoted by the PVC industry based on verbiage in the Indiana bill and comments given in the Oklahoma legislative session.
Among the concerns with the bill are: The bill would prevent engineers from using their expertise and professional judgment when deciding what type of piping material should be used on a water/wastewater project. S.408 would eliminate qualification based selection on water/wastewater projects as it would require users to “engage in open competitive bidding to study, plan design, construct develop, finance, maintain, rebuild, improve repair and operate water and wastewater utilities. S.408 was sent to the Senate Finance Committee.
Here is a link to this bill: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess121_2015-2016/bills/408.htm.
During the week of Feb. 9, two infrastructure funding bills were introduced in the House of Representatives. One bill, H.3579, is the product of the six month House Transportation and Management Ad Hoc Committee’s work and hearings on the SCDOT. Almost half the members of the House signed on as sponsors to the bill. Here is a link to H. 3579: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess121_2015-2016/bills/3579.htm.
The other infrastructure bill, H.3580, reflects Governor Nikki Haley’s solution for the state’s roads and bridges problems. Here is a link to S. 3580: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess121_2015-2016/bills/3580.htm.
Both bills call for changing the leadership at the SCDOT. H. 3579 calls for the Governor to appoint the DOT Commissioners and for the commissioners to hire the Secretary of Transportation while H. 3580 demolishes the DOT Commissioners’ positions and gives a Secretary of Transportation appointed by the governor sole responsibility for the DOT.
Both bills address the major issue of funding differently, and there are other differences.
Currently there are six Senate bills dealing with transportation related bills. They have all been referred to a Senate Finance Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Ray Clarey (R-Georgetown). One hearing has been held where SCDOT Secretary, Janet Oakley, and Mark Lester, PE, testified for the DOT.