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Political Engineering:

Outspoken P.E.s Could Give Profession Better Laws

 

Posted December 17, 2018

 

With the start of the 2019 session of the Maryland General Assembly fast approaching, professional engineers should consider taking time to contact their representatives about issues impacting the industry.

That was a key message from the Legislative Panel at the MDSPE Annual Conference.

“I want to encourage you to please come down to Annapolis when we have bills that are important to you,” said District 23B Delegate Marvin Holmes, Jr. “When we get a phone call or e-mail, we understand that that is a vote… When committee members look out and see a roomful of people looking to support a piece of legislation, their antennas go up and they pay more attention. If no one is there, they assume no one cares.”

Early in each session, contacting members of the committees that will hear individual pieces of legislation is key since bills must receive a favorable report out of committee in order to be brought before the House and Senate.

In addition to exerting political pressure, individuals can provide valuable education to elected representatives, said District 34 Senator Robert Cassilly. Elected representatives don’t have deep knowledge of every topic, industry or piece of legislation, nor the research staff to explain every issue. 

“I am very much dependent upon the experts in every area who come and speak to me” about policy issues, Cassilly said.

The 2019 General Assembly session is expected to address several issues that directly impact professional engineers in the state.

Licensure: MDPSE is advocating for legislation that would require all individuals seeking a professional engineer’s license, regardless of their academic background, to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam. The legislation would also stipulate that licensed PEs residing in other states, who comply with the Continued Professional Competency (CPC) requirements of their home state, would be deemed in compliance with Maryland CPC requirements. However, this situation would only apply to engineers in other states that grant the same reciprocity to Maryland PEs.

“This is a good first step of getting enabling legislation into law that moves us toward reciprocity,” said Chris Costello, MDSPE Lobbyist and Senior Partner with Public Sector Consulting Group. “Delaware has done it. Now let’s make Maryland consistent with Delaware and work to get other states to follow suit.”

Certificates of Merit: While existing Maryland law protects engineers from many frivolous lawsuits, some plaintiffs “drown companies in requests for documentation,” resulting in large legal costs and lost productivity, said District 2A Delegate Neil Parrott. Proposed legislation, supported by MDPSE, would enable engineering companies to get protective orders to stop exorbitant and unnecessary requests for documentation during the generation of a Certificate of Merit.

Mechanics Liens: Current Maryland law “doesn’t really cover economic losses” in the adjudication of mechanics liens and can deny engineers appropriate compensation particularly on projects that ultimately were not built, Cassilly said. “If an engineer has put together plans and studies and research for a project, that has significant value. You bill for that value and you ought to get paid.” Proposed legislation would remove engineers from an existing section of law about mechanics liens and create a new section focused on providing fair compensation to engineers.

MDSPE is also endeavoring to address certain state issues without having to pass legislation. For example, several state departments have removed the clause “negligent performance” from the liability section of their architecture and engineering contracts. Without that clause, most underwriters will refuse to insure an engineering company for negligence on a project. MDSPE is hoping to resolve the issue by lobbying individual departments, the Lieutenant Governor, the Board of Public Works and, if necessary, the General Assembly. 

In all of those cases, individual engineers can help secure a better regulatory and legal environment for the profession by getting involved, Costello said. “You as an individual and you as a business are empowered by your knowledge of these issues and your ability to influence these issues simply by picking up the telephone or paying a visit to the people who are elected to represent you.” 

 
 

 

 

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