The legislative session is almost over in Columbia. The major bills in which the engineering community is interested are probably not going to move this session – highway funding, engineers’ and surveyors’ practice act and tort reform.
Hopefully, the Governor’s selection for the Secretary of Transportation, Ms. Janet P. Oakley, will be approved by the Senate before the session adjourns. Ms. Oakley currently serves as the Director of Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). In addition to her work in her present position, she has over 30 years of transportation-related work experience in both the public and private sectors of the federal, state and local levels.
I met Ms. Oakley at the State House when she was being introduced to the members of the General Assembly. Also, the ACEC Governmental Affairs staff knows her well as they have worked with her at AASHTO.
Back to legislative issues; the engineers’ and surveyors’ practice act is not going to be brought up in either the House or Senate this session for several reasons: the Labor Commerce and Industry Committees have a backlog of bills and this bill is at the bottom of the list, the engineering community did not push for this bill until the industry exemption legislation was complete and there are some amendments that have been circulated which need to be aired before appearing before these committees. Regretfully, these bills will have to be re-introduced in the House and Senate next year. However, this stall will give all parties the opportunity to review the amendments.
Furthermore, I understand NCEES is promoting a new definition of engineering which if adopted South Carolina may want to incorporate it into the new bill next year.
Another industry exemption bill was passed and signed by Gov. Haley Apr. 21. Although this bill was opposed by the SC State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors, ACEC-SC and SCSPE were silent on the legislation. The sentiment of the General Assembly was to pass this legislation. The bill that passed was much more favorable than some alternatives that were considered. Furthermore, the majority of other states have some form of industry exemption, and proponents sold the idea that South Carolina needed an industry exemption to be more competitive in the economic development arena.
The significant highway funding bill, H. 3412, made it through the House of Representatives and was reported out of a Senate Committee, placing it on the Senate Calendar, but the probability of it passing the Senate is remote due to its rules and the amount of bills on the calendar. There was an attempt to set it for “special order” which would have guaranteed it getting to the floor for debate, but the motion did not get sufficient votes to set the bill for special order.
The trail lawyers have taken their usual stance to any tort reform attempts – stonewall. The two tort reform bills introduced in the Senate by Sen. Shane Massey are not going anywhere in the Senate this year. Nevertheless, Sen. Larry Martin, Judiciary Committee Chair, did assign them to a subcommittee, and the a series of hearings are being held in an effort give the SC Civil Justice Coalition an opportunity to present the reasons for the legislation and give the trial lawyers to present their concerns. The idea of these hearings this year is to pave the way for passage next year.
As the numerous TV advertisements indicate, the political season is fast approaching. The State’s constitutional officers, including Governor and Lt. Governor, all members of the State House of Representatives, the United States Congress and the two United State Senators are up for elections.
This political season is also the time for Political Action Committee contributions as well as personal contributions to the candidates you support. I urge you make a contribution to the ACEC-SC PAC, the only engineering PAC for state candidates. Also, I urge you to support candidates you personally endorse. If you aren’t active in the political process, you can’t say much about the people that fill these seats.