Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/07/1995 01:35 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 SL&C - 3/7/95                                                                 
       SB  99 ARCHITECT, ENGINEER & SURVEYOR REGULATION                       
                                                                              
 JOSH FINK, legislative aide to the Senate Labor and Commerce                  
 Committee, gave the following review of SB 99.  SB 99 relates to              
 the practice of architecture, engineering and land surveying.  It             
 seeks to clarify existing law pertaining to the regulation of these           
 professions and return to current law exemptions which existed                
 prior to 1990.  SB 99 makes the following three changes: (1) it               
 clarifies existing law as to when a registrant would be required to           
 stamp a document under seal; (2) it would correct an ambiguity in             
 the law which provides who can claim to be an architect, engineer,            
 or land surveyor; and (3) it reintroduces an exemption for certain            
 employees who do not offer their services to the public but                   
 practice engineering as part of their regular work duties for their           
 employers.                                                                    
                                                                               
 MR. FINK continued.  Section 1 amends current language to require             
 a registrant under the chapter to sign and stamp final drawings,              
 specifications, surveys, plats, plates, reports and other similar             
 documents.  Current law requires all final documents to be signed             
 and stamped under seal.  SB 99 requires only documents from                   
 registered architects, engineers and land surveyors to be signed              
 under seal.                                                                   
                                                                               
 MR. FINK explained that certain members of the board felt they had            
 authority to determine what documents had to be sealed and stamped.           
 Others have taken the position that departments or businesses                 
 requesting such drawings could make that determination, limiting              
 the board's duties to determining who was qualified to provide the            
 stamp and seal.  SB 99 clarifies that only documents produced by              
 those professions under the board can stamp and seal.                         
                                                                               
 Section 2 tightens the law to prohibit the offer to practice the              
 profession of architecture, engineering or land surveying unless              
 the offering person is an architect, engineer, or land surveyor               
 registered under the chapter.  It would further prohibit the use of           
 titles or descriptions tending to convey that a person is an                  
 architect, engineer, or land surveyor unless that person is duly              
 registered.                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 073                                                                    
                                                                               
 Section 3, seeks to restore for officers or employees of a firm,              
 partnership, corporation, or association, other than an electric              
 utility, an exemption from licensure by the AELS Board.  This                 
 exemption existed in law until 1990.  This exemption would apply to           
 those individuals who practice engineering only when required by              
 the person's work duties connected with the person's employment if,           
 and only if, the person's employer is not in the business of                  
 offering engineering services to the public.  This covers in-house            
 engineers, i.e., ARCO, BP, Usibelli Mine, native corporations and             
 utilities, and any other businesses that utilize in-house                     
 engineers.  Those companies were unaware of the removal of the                
 exemption which occurred without debate.  Last year, companies were           
 made aware of the removal of the exemption and have found there is            
 no way to operate under the revised statute.                                  
                                                                               
 MR. FINK continued. In regard to telephone utilities, there are               
 virtually no registered professional engineers specializing in                
 telephone utilities in Alaska.  Assuming enough engineers could be            
 found, the cost to the consumer would be substantial, and there               
 have been no reported problems under the exemption system.  Removal           
 of the exemption will have significant impacts on both utilities              
 and customers, both in rates and the timeliness with which services           
 are provided.  Reinstitution of this exemption does not present the           
 issue of licensing and regulation based on public protection.                 
 Licensure guarantees the public that a person holding himself out             
 as a professional meets the minimum standards.  An employee of a              
 utility does not offer services to a customer.  The utility itself            
 offers service to the general public and the utility itself is                
 responsible and liable for the job performance of its employees.              
 The key is liability.  SB 99 is an important vehicle which will               
 allow utilities to continue to operate as they have been been                 
 within the letter of the law.  In its present form, the law will              
 force utilities to operate in a more costly and impractical manner            
 which will result in significant delays and increase costs to                 
 customers.  He asked those opposing SB 99 to note whether they are            
 aware of any problems that have occurred.                                     
                                                                               
 Number 148                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHUCK RUSSELL, an employee of United Utilities (UU), testified in             
 support of the exemption for telephone utilities.  UU is interested           
 in having the law revert back to the pre-1990 status so that they             
 can operate without the undue burden of trying to locate and hire             
 professional engineers unnecessarily.                                         
                                                                               
 DAVE ADAMS, a professional engineer, testified in opposition to               
 Section 3 of SB 99.  He did not disagree with what the sponsor is             
 attempting to accomplish, but felt this particular exemption to be            
 so broadly written that companies such as K-Mart, Walmart, etc.,              
 could construct facilities without ever having to hire a                      
 professional engineer or architect on the project.  He felt the               
 concept has merit, and agreed with the telephone companies that no            
 one has ever been damaged by a fiber optic or telephone cable                 
 underground, but he expressed concern that the wording of                     
 subsection (10) is so fatally flawed that it needs to be completely           
 rewritten.  He noted the oil companies also have an interest in               
 subsection (10).  He informed committee members prior to the                  
 weekend informal meetings of professional engineers and                       
 representatives of the oil industry were held to try to work out              
 acceptable language to meet all needs.  For the time being, he                
 recommended subsection (10) be completely stricken.  Regarding                
 Section 2, he stated HB 46, which predates SB 99, is the cleaner              
 version of this.  He requested Section 2 be amended.                          
                                                                               
 Number 177                                                                    
                                                                               
 MIKE TAURINIAN, a member of the Board of Architects, Engineers, and           
 Land Surveyors (AELS), made the following comments on his own                 
 behalf.  Regarding Section 1, original language required all final            
 documents covered by AS 08.48 be sealed and signed by a registered            
 architect, engineer, and/or land surveyor.  The proposed language             
 does not appear to restrict an unlicensed person from issuing final           
 drawing specs, etc., so the change is slight and the intent is to             
 conform with Section 3.  Section 2 removes the word "registered,"             
 which is overly restrictive and confusing to the public, in the               
 permissible use of the term "architect, engineer, or land                     
 surveyors."  He felt this to be especially important in the use of            
 the title of engineer which has been used generically for hundreds            
 of years.  The AELS Board did take action in opposition to SB 99 at           
 its February meeting.  He expressed concern that Section 3 would              
 enable an individual to employ anyone they want to design                     
 structures, walls, treatment plants, or whatever, as long as they             
 were not offering engineering services to the public.  He explained           
 SB 99 would also enable a national hotel chain to have in-house               
 employees, not necessarily engineers, design a building, which                
 would eventually be leased to the public.  He felt that some                  
 activities should be exempted from initial registration                       
 requirements, and he noted the AELS Board has recently supported              
 exemptions for electrical utilities.  He recommended that the AELS            
 Board be charged with finding and implementing appropriate                    
 exceptions via the regulatory process, as they have done in the               
 past.  This would relieve the Legislature from having to address              
 technical issues of relative risk to the public associated with the           
 nuances of engineering, design, etc.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 259                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO asked if Mr. Taurinian's concern with Section 1 was              
 that it allowed non-registered people to seal and sign official               
 documents.  MR. TAURINIAN responded that Section 1 does not                   
 restrict a non-registered person from issuing documents.  He                  
 believed the intent of that language was to conform to the change             
 in Section 3, subsection (10).                                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO asked if Mr. Taurinian was opposed to SB 99.  He                 
 responded, "Yes, very much."                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 280                                                                    
                                                                               
 RANDY NELSON, representing G   Alaska, testified in support of SB
 99 and the exemption for telephone utilities to generate                      
 engineering documents for telecommunications type work within their           
 exchanges for their own use.  After 20 years in the industry, he              
 has not worked in a state that requires a seal for such type of               
 work.  The documents (or specs) used by G  Alaska are in accordance           
 with the National Electric Safety Code, and either meet or exceed             
 those requirements.  He commented he was unaware of any problems              
 that have resulted in the past.  He stated the intent of an                   
 exemption was not to get into the engineering field of buildings or           
 areas outside of the normal telecommunications field where                    
 requirements for building additions are contracted out to                     
 appropriate engineering firms.  He concluded, "If it's not broken,            
 don't fix it."                                                                
                                                                               
 BOB BELL expressed concern with subsection (10) of Section 3.  He             
 believed that if the AELS Board determines what documents need to             
 be stamped, there would a conflict with the requirements of other             
 agencies, such as DOT and the State Fire Marshall.  He felt a                 
 compromise could be reached specific to benign engineering                    
 services.  He explained in designing telephone systems, the design            
 of the wires would pose no problem, but the design of the telephone           
 pole itself would, because it could fall over.  He believed the               
 pole design should be stamped because of the life/safety factor.              
 He stated projects such as underground cables of less than 120                
 volts, down-hole locations for an oil well, and reservoir                     
 engineering do not have life/safety factors, but projects that do             
 generally require stamps from the agency that regulates the                   
 project.  He believed a compromise could be reached if more time              
 was available so that all of the people involved could get together           
 and come up with wording for subsection (10) to make it more                  
 acceptable.  He agreed with David Adams that the original intent of           
 the bill was to tighten up the term "engineer" because it is used             
 indiscriminately and conveys the wrong message to the public.  He             
 recommended making that change and drafting consistent language to            
 make the bill more acceptable to all people involved.                         
                                                                               
 SENATOR TORGERSON asked Mr. Bell who he was representing.  MR. BELL           
 stated he was representing himself, as a registered professional              
 engineer and land surveyor.                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 371                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO asked Mr. Bell what direction the compromise should go           
 in and if adding the following language would address his concerns.           
                                                                               
 "Not withstanding any of the exemption provisions in this                    
 section where statutes or regulations require a seal it shall                 
 be done by a professional engineer."                                          
                                                                               
 MR. BELL suggested narrowing the language to try to cover benign              
 type engineering projects.  Otherwise, a list of what agency                  
 governs what type of project, depending on the location, would need           
 to be created.                                                                
                                                                               
 SENATOR SALO discussed whether or not an established quality of               
 service is the issue, or whether it is about which test is taken.             
 She noted that in a discussion with a major oil company, it came to           
 her attention that all of their engineers are licensed, but not               
 necessarily so in the state of Alaska.  They are concerned that               
 their engineers may be required to study for, and take, the test in           
 the state of Alaska, which is very time consuming, even though                
 their jobs are very specialized.  MR. BELL responded, that as far             
 as the oil companies go, most engineers can become registered by              
 reciprocity, and the only additional requirement is that one must             
 take a course in engineering.  If an oil engineer was designing an            
 above-ground facility, he/she would need that expertise.  He/she              
 would be required to stamp the drawing, which would be stamped by             
 the fire marshall also.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 431                                                                    
                                                                               
 AL DICKENS, representing Arctic Slope Telephone, stated his                   
 opposition to requiring telephone companies to hire professional              
 engineers to seal design specifications.  He explained it would               
 create delays and additional costs, and those services would be               
 used on a part-time basis only.  He did not agree the issue was one           
 of safety, as telephone companies have operated successfully for              
 over 100 years without that requirement.                                      
                                                                               
 GARY HAYNES, Vice President of Operations for Prime Cable and Vice            
 President of Alaska Cable Television Association, stated he                   
 supported subsection (10).  He stated his associations are unaware            
 of any problems that would motivate the changes.                              
                                                                               
 TOM CRAFFORD, a geologist with Cook Inlet Region Incorporated                 
 (CIRI), and former geologist with the Greens Creek Mine, testified            
 in support of SB 99.  He stated he was unaware of any existing                
 problems.                                                                     
                                                                               
 TOM SCARBOROUGH, representing himself, expressed concern about the            
 same paragraph mentioned by others.  He was concerned that because            
 native corporations do a large amount of water and sewer projects             
 in the bush, they would not be required to put registered engineers           
 on staff to do the design work, circumventing the wish of the AELS            
 Board.  There is nothing in SB 99 to prevent that and the health              
 and safety of the public would be at stake.  They tried to do this            
 with land surveying but it could not be done because there is no              
 exemption.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 482                                                                    
                                                                               
 VICTOR WILLIS, Nushagak Telephone and Electric, testified in favor            
 of SB 99.  Most of Nushagak's telephone plant is underground and              
 most work is run-of-the-mill work governed by [indis.] regulations            
 and guidelines.  It poses no hazard to the public.  He believed the           
 exemption should be allowed for telephone companies.                          
                                                                               
 STEVE BORELL, Executive Director of the Alaska Miners' Association,           
 stated his support of the intent of Section 3, as it is common                
 practice within the mining industry, and has not created any                  
 problems.  Federal laws specify the instances where projects need             
 to be signed off before they can be completed.  He noted mining               
 engineers are often involved in projects with safety concerns which           
 are covered by federal requirements.  In the six states he has                
 worked in as an engineer, no other state requires on-mine site                
 engineers employed by a mining company to be registered.                      
                                                                               
                                                                               
 COLIN MAYNARD, a member of the Alaska Professional Design Council             
 (APDC), a group of approximately 10 different architectural,                  
 engineering and land surveying services, representing about 1200              
 registrants, testified in opposition to SB 99, particularly                   
 Sections 1 and 3.  The semantic change in Section 1 would allow               
 non-registered people to issue documents which could endanger                 
 public safety.  The APDC is more concerned with Section 3 because             
 it is overly broad.  The AELS Board has worked with electric                  
 utilities, the one group that has been exempted, to decide what               
 projects do, and don't, pose a danger to public safety.  The                  
 electric utilities are satisfied with the present system, therefore           
 he felt other industries could work with the AELS Board.  The APDC            
 is not opposed to exempting the telecommunications industry, but              
 was not knowledgeable enough about the mining industry to have an             
 opinion.  He questioned why there are registered mining engineers             
 if most states do not require registration.  He saw the biggest               
 problem occuring when a builder hires an unregistered person with             
 little or no experience.  He noted up until 10 years ago the                  
 Municipality of Anchorage did not check to see if drawings were               
 stamped until the AELS Board intervened.  He expressed concern if             
 stamped drawings are not required by state law, there is nothing to           
 prevent the municipality from reverting back to that.  Presently              
 there is no state building code, and no enforcement of any building           
 code outside of Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks, and possibly                
 parts of the Kenai Peninsula.  The only review of drawings is done            
 by the State Fire Marshall who looks for fire-related safety                  
 issues.  There is no review of mechanical or electrical drawings;             
 they only check the structural drawings to make sure that the loads           
 are about what they think it should be.  There is no review of                
 whether those drawings are adequate or not.  The only current                 
 safeguard in commercial building design outside of the three                  
 municipal areas is the fact that licensed practitioners do those              
 drawings.  If that exemption is removed, public safety will be                
 greatly endangered.                                                           
                                                                               
 BYRON HAYNES, representing himself, stated in his company there are           
 both registered and nonregistered engineers.  He noted while his              
 company is endeavoring to comply with the Alaska registered                   
 engineers statute, his ability to move engineers to Alaska by the             
 laws of the in-house exemption of registered engineers places a               
 restriction on the ability of the company to best utilize their               
 people.  He supports SB 99 and the exemption for engineers who                
 practice for a single company from issuance of [indis.]                       
 requirements.  Engineers who have to be covered by such an                    
 exemption are not offering their services to the public, only to              
 the company that employs them.  Those companies are very mindful of           
 their status and liability issues for the acts of their engineers.            
 This requires them to be more vigilant in ensuring that the highest           
 level of professional standards are met.  The best method of                  
 protection for the public is served by SB 99.   Many regulations              
 apply through different state departments.  Under federal law there           
 are 148 regulations required involving registered engineers.  These           
 regulations cover the safety and welfare of Alaska citizens.  He              
 asked for the committee's support of SB 99.                                   
                                                                               
 DICK ARMSTRONG, chair of the AELS Board, testified in opposition to           
 SB 99.  He stated the Division of Occupational Licensing polled all           
 board members with the same result.  He opposed SB 99 for the                 
 following reasons.  If Section 1 is adopted, unlicensed people may            
 prepare financial specifications for reports without having to seal           
 their work product.  It also implies they do not have to accept               
 responsibility for the design.  There is no way that this will                
 enhance public safety, rather it will open the doors for                      
 potentially unqualified designers or self proclaimed engineers.  He           
 proposed including language that would allow the AELS Board to                
 define specific exemptions based on the relative risk to the                  
 public.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 553                                                                    
                                                                               
 PAULA ELLER, (indisc.) Yukon Telephone and Power Company, an                  
 association of 12 small companies in rural Alaska, expressed                  
 concern about requiring professional engineers to sign off, or be             
 on site, during any construction projects.  She believed the                  
 service would become unaffordable.  She stated there are 101 small            
 electric utilities and not enough professional engineers to go                
 around.                                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 542                                                                    
                                                                               
 LANCE MEARIG, President-elect of the Juneau branch of the American            
 Society of Civil Engineers, represented himself as a registered               
 engineer in Alaska.  He opposed Section 1 of SB 99 and suggested              
 retaining the existing language.  He had no position on Section 2,            
 but was opposed to subsection (10) of Section 3 as he did not                 
 believe there are existing controls in place to ensure public                 
 safety.  He explained that in many small municipalities, there are            
 no requirements for registered engineers to stamp drawings or                 
 specifications when state or federal money is not involved.                   
                                                                               
 Number 525                                                                    
                                                                               
 SENATOR LEMAN commented he was disappointed to see SB 99 introduced           
 because he was working with a number of the utility companies who             
 were testifying on compromise language with the intent of amending            
 SB 43.  He believed SB 99 provides too broad of an exemption and he           
 preferred narrowing the exemption.  He agreed that nearly all of              
 the underground work does not need to be stamped by an engineer               
 since it is low voltage and public safety is not threatened.  He              
 believed the work done this past summer by the AELS Board and                 
 utilities is an appropriate solution and he felt cable TV falls in            
 the same category as telephone utilities.  He also believed                   
 exemptions may be appropriate for certain industries, but crafting            
 the concept more narrowly would be the better approach.  He                   
 suggested narrowing the exemptions and providing for additional               
 exemptions that may be authorized by the board.  The AELS Board               
 would then become the board of appeal where proposals could be                
 presented and exempted when appropriate.  In summary, he felt                 
 Section 3 should be rewritten.                                                
                                                                               
 CATHERINE REARDON, Director of the Division of Occupational                   
 Licensing, testified.  She noted, from an administrative point of             
 view, SB 99 is not difficult to implement and would have no fiscal            
 impact.  The Division views its responsibility as protecting the              
 consumer and health and safety of the public.  She hoped for a                
 resolution which permits industry to operate in the state while               
 simultaneously protecting health and safety concerns.                         
                                                                               
 Number 478                                                                    
                                                                               
 JIM ROE, Executive Director of the Alaska Telephone Association,              
 supported SB 99 because it is in the public interest.  It would               
 allow local exchange carriers to build telephone infrastructure,              
 allow Alaskans access to telephone service, and not burden                    
 customers with increased rates.  There is no record of unsafe or              
 substandard infrastructure construction by local telephone                    
 companies in the state.  Prior to 1990, as a number of people have            
 already testified, this exemption was permitted for all utilities             
 as well as other corporations.  It was removed without discussion.            
 The ATA discovered the change one and one-half years ago and has              
 been in noncompliance since that time.  There are 26 states that do           
 exempt all utility engineers from the licensure requirement.                  
 Regarding Section 3, he said it is the same as language that                  
 existed prior to 1990, with the exclusion of the electric                     
 utilities.  He stated he was unaware of any buildings constructed             
 by large corporations prior to 1990, that were designed by other              
 than professional architects or engineers.  He thanked Senator                
 Leman for his willingness to work with ATA on the issue, but he               
 stated during meetings, they were unable to narrow down language              
 that would give the telephone utility the exemption they need.  ATA           
 believes it is better to have the public interest defined by the              
 Legislature than by a regulatory board that has an obviously vested           
 interest in the issue.  Without SB 99, the government will continue           
 to regulate a problem that does not exist.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 448                                                                    
                                                                               
 GRAHAM ROLSTAD, interim president CEO of Matanuska Telephone,                 
 Chairman of the Engineering and Planning Committee of the Alaska              
 Telephone Association, and a registered professional engineer in              
 the State of Alaska, testified.  He stated he has been in the                 
 telephone industry for 30 years, primarily in an engineering                  
 capacity.  He has worked in three states and has never had to seal            
 a drawing; he believed that requirement for in-house engineers is             
 unnecessary to produce quality products and produce the engineering           
 for a specialty that is vitally needed.  Most of the engineers he             
 worked with over the years have not been professional engineers.              
 He supported SB 99 as he believed it is in the public interest to             
 restore the telephone industry exemption.  MTA's engineers are not            
 degreed engineers; they are trained in-house on specifications that           
 have been utilized for a number of years and are continually under            
 review by telephone companies nationwide.  They do take into                  
 consideration public safety, national electric safety codes, good             
 engineering standards for the customer, cost factors, and are there           
 to serve the public.  They are specialists in their field and most            
 would be unable to pass a professional engineer exam because the              
 exam is more geared toward the degreed engineer with a broader base           
 than specialized training.  SB 99 would create a situation where a            
 great deal of very talented engineers would no longer be able to              
 perform their task for the companies they are employed by if this             
 exemption is not reenacted.   Mr. Rolmstead stated he tried to work           
 out some type of arrangements for the telephone utilities to work             
 through the regulations with Mr. Armstrong last year, to see if a             
 compromise could be reached, however they were unable to come to an           
 agreement therefore the ATA has come to the conclusion that                   
 legislation is the best route to use for ATA and its companies to             
 rectify the situation.  He stated they do not want to operate in              
 violation of the law, but feel it is a necessary evil.  He urged              
 the committee's support of SB 99.                                             
                                                                               
 SENATOR TORGERSON stated the committee would not take action on SB
 99 during the meeting as it needs more work.                                  
                                                                               
 GEORGE FINDLING, manager of government relations for ARCO Alaska,             
 and a registered professional engineer in California, testified.              
 He stated the Occupational Licensing Board regulates the behavior             
 of individuals which is the reason for his support of SB 99.  He              
 supported Section 1 because it clarifies in statute that the Board            
 of Occupational Licensing will determine how to use the seal.                 
 Regarding the issue of how to prevent unlicensed engineers from               
 issuing unsealed drawings, ARCO Alaska has found that through other           
 regulations, i.e., building codes, fire marshall codes, etc., the             
 industry is highly regulated, and professional engineers have to              
 seal drawings that could affect the public.  He stated a mild                 
 dislike for Section 2 because there are not two words for                     
 "engineer" as there are in the legal profession for "lawyer," who             
 is someone who has graduated, and "attorney" who is licensed and              
 certified.  He stated the statute is inconsistent.  He suggested              
 resolving the issue by only allowing registered engineers to call             
 themselves registered engineers.  Regarding Section 3, he commented           
 36 states have exemptions similar to SB 99.  He stated they are               
 working toward a compromise to see if they can find "belt and                 
 suspenders" language to those particular cases where there might be           
 a concern that the regulations that would belong in other areas of            
 the government are not working well.                                          

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