The SC General Assembly has been in session for nine weeks. The three issues expected to be high on the House and Senate agendas – ethics, infrastructure funding and education – have not passed. However, the House of Representatives completed its work on the 2016 budget, and the Senate will begin its work on the budget soon.
Of particular interest to engineers and surveyors is the Practice Act which was introduced in the Senate Feb. 4, 2015 with Sen. Hugh Leatherman as the primary sponsor. The bill number is S. 410. Other co-sponsors are Sen. O’Dell, Sen. Nicholson, Sen. Shane Martin, Sen. Campbell and Sen. Alexander. The bill was sent to the Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee chaired by Sen. Alexander. At this writing the bill has not been scheduled for a subcommittee hearing. (practice act for a brief explanation of the bill.)
According to the LCI staff, Sen. Alexander has received a number of letters from engineers supporting the legislation, including the procurement of professional services section.
Rep. Nelson Hardwick, PE, has taken the Senate version and prepared it for introduction into the House. We are currently contacting house members asking them to sign on as co-sponsors. Hopefully, the House version will be introduced in the next week or two.
Members are encouraged to write their Senator and House member supporting this legislation. (senate letter to see sample letter to send.)
ACEC-SC and SCSPE are supplying volunteer engineers to come to the State House in Columbia every Wednesday to help work legislation important to the two organizations. These professionals in the State House are proving invaluable. They are first meeting and talking to their own House member and Senator. Then they are talking to other legislators important to passing the Practice Act and other bills of interest. Currently these Wednesday volunteers are focusing on the House and Senate Labor Commerce and Industry Committee members as the Practice Act must pass these committee before going to the full House and Senate. Contact Joe or Adam Jones if you would like to participate in the program.
Transportation funding has been the subject of numerous bills in both the House and Senate. However, none of them have taken hold. The engineering community is supportive of transportation funding. Legislators need to hear from their constituencies (you) and your opinions on money for roads and bridges. This is the year for funding transportation.
Three tort reform bills were passed out of a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee the week of Mar. 16. These bills now go to the full Judiciary Committee and should appear on the agenda within a couple of weeks. One of the bills deals with trespassing. It codifies the practice in South Carolina for decades. Basically the land owner is not held responsible of someone on the property without permission.
The other tort reform bills contain a number of issues, but one of importance to engineers and surveyors is the certificate of merit. A few years ago, the SC Civil Justice Coalition with the help of engineers, contractors and others passed a certificate of merit bill which required a plaintiff claiming negligence by a licensed professional to submit an affidavit from a licensed professional supporting the validity of the claim when filing a lawsuit for negligence. This bill requires the defendant to submit an affidavit from a licensed professional as a prerequisite to file a counter claim.
Other issues in the tort reform bills are a ceiling on punitive damages non-economic damages, seat belt admissibility in a judicial proceeding, guidelines for asbestos claims, and others.
The engineering community opposes another bill: S. 408, commonly known as the “piping bill.”
This legislation has numerous problems including requiring bidding for professional services for all water and waste water projects. It can be interpreted to take away the professional designer’s ability to recommend the best piping material for the specific project.