Wednesday, May 20, 2015, S.685, the Engineers’ and Surveyors’ Practice Act Update, was reviewed by the Senate LCI – Professions & Occupations Subcommittee with disappointing results.
The bill was carried over and no further action can take place until next year.
The meeting began with six items on the agenda. S.685 was moved to number six. Sen. Nikki Setzler, Sen. Kevin Bryant and Sen. Sean Bennett were in attendance. Sen. Billy O’Dell – Subcommittee Chairman, Sen. Tom Davis and Sen. Karl Allen were absent.
The first person to speak was Joe Jones, Lobbyist for ACEC-SC, SCSPE and SCSPLS but also spoke on behalf of the SC State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors, ASCE-SC, the Structural Engineers as well as individual licensees. Jones stated that the Engineering and Surveying societies back S.685 as written.
He said the board began the process of updating the Practice Act in late 2012 as it needs to be updated every four to five years. Jones explained that the engineers’ and surveyors’ oppose any efforts that may change section 40-22-35, the procurement of engineering and surveying services for public work by any other means than qualification. Nine other states have this qualification in their practice acts.
Jones also explained that the societies oppose any attempts to make the term “engineer” generic allowing non registered engineers to be called “Project Engineer or Field Engineer”. The term has been protected for decades and is defined as a person with an engineering education, sufficient experience under registered personnel and passage of the comprehensive series of exams. South Carolina is not unique in the protection of the term engineer as 43 states protect this term.
Next, Gene Dinkins, PE, PLS of Cox & Dinkins, Past President of NCEES and Past Chair of the SC State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers & Surveyors spoke to inform the subcommittee that the Registration Board fully backs this bill as written.
Sen. Setzler asked why the word “engineer” was protected. Dinkins explained that engineers must abide by certain licensing requirements to obtain the title “engineer”. By using words like “Field Engineer” and “Project Engineer”, it is implied that these individuals have undergone the same training and licensing. Sen. Bennett, a financial planner, used a scenario regarding his profession. As he explained, anyone can call themselves a financial planner, but he is a Certified Financial Planner. Dinkins interjected with an example of a lawyer. Someone can graduate from law school but cannot be called a lawyer until he or she has passes the bar. Sen. Bryant added that he is licensed pharmacist.
Sen. Bryant asked if there were any that oppose the bill. Beaufort Jasper Water Authority and a representative of water utilities of Spartanburg spoke in opposition of S. 685. They support all aspects of the bill except sections 4 and 5. They would like to remove Sections 4 and 5 of the bill; specifically they opposed the section on Qualification Based Selection.
Section 4 adds prohibitions for offering engineering and surveying services. A new section in the law is in Section 40-22-30. This bill adds the following language: “It is unlawful to broker or coordinate engineering services, surveying services or both for a fee.
Section 5 also adds a new segment to the practice act. 40-22-35 prevents registered engineers or surveyors from entering “into contract for professional services on public work on any basis other than direct negotiation thereby precluding participation in any system requiring a comparison of compensation. However, a registered engineer or surveyor may state compensation to a prospective client as part of direct negotiation their selection as the most qualified provider.”
Robert Moser, PE, passionately interjected and explained to the subcommittee the value of QBS for public work. He lost business because projects were awarded on price, not performance and qualifications.
Due to other appointments for Sen. Bennett and Sen. Setzler, the subcommittee meeting was adjourned and the bill was carried over until next legislative session.
Please keep this topic at the forefront of your Senators and LCI Subcommittee Members. Please use the following link for contact information for your specific senator and the spreadsheet of the LCI subcommittee members.