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Strange But True

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As an observer from Texas, I have read the various ongoing threads 
related to specialty registration (CE vs. SE) in California with a 
mixture of apathy and amusement.  I used to wish that we had specialty 
registration in Texas, but now I am not so sure. While many of you 
have bickered internally over who has the right to practice structural 
engineering in California, you may have overlooked a much larger 
external threat to your livelihood.  It appears that California is 
about to become the first state that does not require the involvement 
of licensed mechanical and electrical engineers in the design of 
many-or-most private-sector building projects!  Will structural 
engineers be next?  All licensed engineers should be very concerned 
about this and work to stop it.  Otherwise, you can look forward to a 
future where most buildings are designed by technicians working for 
contractors and developers.

What follows is a reprint of an article published in the October 1997 
issue (Volume 5, Number 12) of CELSOC "Update":

Senate Bill 828 by Senator Leroy Greene (D-Carmichael) that extends 
the life of the Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and 
Land Surveyors for two more years has been sent to Governor Wilson by 
the Legislature.  Included in the bill is the language that CELSOC, 
BORPELS, and other engineering societies opposed that exempts 
"consultants and those hired pursuant to third party contracts" from 
licensure (this does not apply to civil).  While Senator Greene 
removed the language in the bill's final hearing, the software 
industry and some of their allies were able to replace the language on 
the floor of the Assembly after initially defeating the bill with a 
vote of 22-49.  An issue that complicated the final days was a 
Legislative Counsel opinion that opined it would be impossible to 
reauthorize the BORPELS in 1998 with urgency legislation.  Had SB 828 
not been passed, BORPELS would have gone out of existence on July 1, 
1998, with all regulatory authority passing to the Department of 
Consumer Affairs (DCA).

It is interesting that although DCA has consistently supported the 
broad deregistration contained in SB 828, they did not object to the 
recommendation of the Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee that 
the state continue to regulate electrical and mechanical engineering.

For other than civil engineering, Government Code §6747 already allows 
California manufacturing, mining, public utility, research and 
development or other industrial corporations, to conduct engineering 
related activities, through their own employees.  As long as the 
activities are related to their products, systems or services, 
"industrial corporations" are free from the regulatory activities of 
the Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land 
Surveyors (BORPELS).  The reasoning is that a company will exercise 
prudence in hiring an employee to perform engineering and will be 
strictly liable for any activity undertaken by such employee. 
 Industrial exemptions, which are common in many other states, are 
almost invariably linked to products liability coverage to protect the 
consumer from intentional or inadvertent misconduct on the part of the 
exempt person.

However, SB 828 destroys this strict liability protection by expanding 
the industrial exemption to include "consultants" to an "industry." 
 The principle of strict liability breaks down in a relationship of 
"independent contractor" where the contractor is not supervised by an 
employer.

During six months of discussions CELSOC, BORPELS and several of the 
other engineering societies offered a variety of alternatives to DCA 
and other proponents of the expanded exemption.  These alternatives 
were all flatly rejected.  The common refrain was "we like the bill 
the way it is" with the complete deregistration of all practice areas 
but civil.

SB 828 provides that a consultant or third party contractor is now an 
employee.  That provision allows companies, under the exemption, to 
practice on an unlimited basis, any type of engineering but civil. 
 This is, in effect, a deregistration of electrical and mechanical 
engineering-at least when the "client" is a business entity.

CELSOC has asked Governor Wilson that if he decides to sign SB 828, he 
express the need to correct this very serious problem of deregulation 
of electrical and mechanical engineering.  The complete deregulation 
of electrical and mechanical engineering to satisfy some nebulous fear 
of discipline of software designers puts the public at serious risk 
with no apparent benefit to the public.  The Governor is expected to 
act on SB 828 after the publication date for this issue of Update.

Best Regards,

Stan R. Caldwell, P.E.
Dallas, Texas

*******************************************************
The goal of every engineer is to retire
without getting blamed for a major catastrophe!
			           ...Dilbert, 1996	
*******************************************************




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