By Don Schinske, SEAOC Executive Director
New to SEAOC this spring is the formation of a state-level Legislative Committee. We are fortunate to have Carl Josephson (SEAOSD), an emeritus member of the state Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists (BPELSG) to serve as chair. Members will include one voting representative from each of Member Organization. Throughout each year’s legislative session, the group will meet on the phone frequently, often briefly, often with little lead time, as SEAOC scales up its participation in the noisy, messy, and vitally important arena of Sacramento policymaking.
In any year, a dozen or more bills will get introduced that would affect some aspect of structural engineering practice, the design professions generally, earthquake and other hazard mitigation and safety, and more broadly, the state’s infrastructure and building stock. Our ability to shape, encourage, or thwart these proposals can help improve the environment in which our members practice and more importantly, the level of safety in which Californians live.
From February through August, legislative bills move or stall, gain or shed content, or change purpose entirely. Hearings can be set or cancelled on short notice. At the quantum level, the process can look choppy and nonlinear, and our Legislative Committee must be nimble if it is to engage effectively. Ultimately, the policy work spread across the organization, with more SEAOC leaders and members involved in calling and visiting legislators, writing letters, testifying in legislative committees, and participating in both the natural and sometimes-bizarre alliances that can form around a particular issue.
This year, SEAOC is pursuing its own modest change to statute. As most of our members know, the design of hospitals and K-12 public schools in California is restricted to licensed structural engineers. Currently, those restrictions exist in separate areas of a code – for hospitals, in the Health & Safety Code and for schools, in the Education Code. Neither appears where we, the public, policymakers, or prospective licensees, would expect to find them, which would be within the Professional Engineers Act of the Business and Professions Code.
This year, SEAOC has been working with legislative authors and staff to ensure that the relevant sections of the Health and Education codes get referenced within the Business and Professions Code. Our language will be included in a bill (as yet unnumbered) that is being authored by the Senate Business and Professions Committee. We don’t anticipate the language being controversial, and it should give opportunities for our members to testify, knock on doors, to educate legislators about our organizations, SE practice, and our members’ unique expertise.
Additionally, SEAOC is likely to engage on or track a range of other bills due to be heard this spring, some of which are listed below. Feel free to click through the bill number, read the text, and send me any thoughts.
AB 1551 (Holden) is an ACEC-sponsored bill that prohibits the use of a licensed engineer’s work without written consent. The bill is analogous to a successful bill last year, AB 630, which applied to architects and sponsored by AIACC. BPELSG is seeking amendments to the bill that exempt the licensing board from contract-enforcement obligations.
AB 1999 (Atkins), authored by the incoming Assembly Speaker, would allow tax credits for the retrofit of historic buildings. AIACC is a co-sponsor of the bill and is seeking SEAOC’s support.
AB 2181 (Bloom) would add non-ductile concrete residential buildings to the list of structures for which local jurisdictions could require evaluation and mitigation. SEAOC and several members independently have been communicating with the sponsor, a UC Davis law professor, and SEAOC will be sharing a compilation of concerns and questions with her, many of them generated from within SEAONC’s Existing Buildings Committee.
SB 1155 (Lieu) would require that projects within an earthquake fault zone, where hazard mapping has not been complete, to be set back 75 feet from an active trace fault.