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Re: How do you sign DWG files?

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You raise two separate issues in the below questions, and I will venture
some info. I have been a "Board watcher" since 1982, and have followed the
current rulemaking on stamps and signing. The situation is not quite as bad
as when the sky fell on Chicken Little, but some problematic things are
dropping on us nevertheless.

At 09:18 AM 06/30/2000 -0700, you wrote:
>A few weeks ago Ron Hamburger posted a note stating that the state is
>interpreting the rules to require us to sign all engineering documents, even
>preliminary documents.

        It wasn't "the state" but only a single civil service employee who
made the above interpretation. I have a copy of her explanation of how she
interpreted as she did. She is not an engineer or a lawyer, and only sought
to interpret the word "all" in Cal PE Act Sec 6735, where "all" begins a
provision that is much older than this employee is. Interpreting one word, a
dictionary-defined word, is not a legitimate way to interpret an entire
three-line sentence, let alone the complete statutory section, and I can
cite appellate court decisions to that effect.  Yet that's what this staffer
has done-- latch onto one word and avoid inquiry into the whole passage in
the context of its regulatory purpose. 

        There is a readily available staff attorney at the Dept of Consumer
Affairs, who is on call to help with legal interpretations. But this staff
attorney [1] is a partisan supporter of his "client", as a former attorney
in that DCA office once hastened to remind me is normal practice, and [2]
this staff attorney candidly admitted in a Board meeting I attended (and
participated in the relevant legal discussions at), "I don't know anything
about engineering except what I read in the PE Act." So he still has one of
the two deficiencies that the staffer has.

        The Board is perfectly capable of asking the state Attorney General
for an interpretive opinion. They have in the past. AG opinions are
carefully done, and are less cozily biased than DCA legal counsel opinions.
But there is still the engineering practice context issues remaining as
handicaps in any AG opinion. You can bet that it was engineers who drafted
the relevant text of Sec 6735 in the old days, and who had in mind the way
plans-signing practice and preliminary plans usage normally was handled.
Back then Board members and their executive officer were exclusively civil
engineers, some being SE's as well, and they could be presumed to understand
the intended "real" meaning of what the Act said.

        And yet even the AG's opinions are not law. Further, any
interpretation of statute that is used by the Board as a standard of general
application has to be oficially adopted as a regulation in accordance with
the many procedural and quality standards of the state Administrative
Procedures Act. The PE Board is notorious for trying to circumvent the APA
and make staffers' notions and their own policy whims into regulation
informally. The results are called "underground regulations" and are void
and unenforceable. Were the current staffer's conclusions to be tendered as
a proposed regulation in the proper way, its many defects would be exposed
in public comment that the lawyers at Office of Administrative Law review in
their role of ascertaining whether the proposed reg complies with APA
quality standards. 
  
>How does this effect the electronic transmission of engineering data? We
>routinely send DWG files to architects so that they may overlay out
>structure to check (so they say!) for conflicts. Do these drawings require a
>signature?

        Whether, and at what stage of completion, any prints of engineering
data still in formulation require a signature is an open question. Sec 6735
expressly applies to "civil engineering plans." When does the material under
"preparation" (another key word, used in the past tense in the statute)
become a preparED "plan" subject to the signing mandate? The statutory
purpose for signing plans is conveniently spelled out; that purpose is to
"indicate...responsibility for them." When in the course of preparation of
plans is it meaningful for responsibility to be taken for them? When in the
preparation process does protection of the public first become harmed due to
absence of a responsible preparing person's signature?  These are necessary
considerations to be made in interpreting Sec 6735, and the Board's staffer
unsurprisingly did not do so.       

        As for how to sign a "plan" sent electronically, the Board could
have, but has not, addressed this in the regulations now being finalized.
The currently proposed Board Rule 411 regulation amendments, now about a
year and a half into the APA adoption process, at one interim point had
permitted electronically-generated signature representation, but that
provision seems to have been discarded. One's _stamp_ may however be an
"electronically generated representation" as an alternative to a rubber ink
stamp, if and when the relevant Rule 411 amendments take effect. The use of
electronically generated signatures was debated at length a year back, and I
gather is technically viable, but the Board members apparently struck the
possibility out, in their confusion and doubt. The "multiple person
stamping" provisions only were added in the last eight months, and the
requirement to date every  stamping/signing is brand new in June 2000's
draft. No statements of necessity for these regulatory additions were ever
given, which is an APA violation. 

        O.K.: Why is there any rulemaking on stamps going on? Two good
reasons: First, the PE Act had been amended to make the term "licensed"
equivalent to the existing "registered", and it became necessary to amend
the stamp description rule to allow for use of "licensed". Additionally
there has been pressure from large firms and govt agencies to amend in
permission to use computer graphics to generate the stamp image as a
convenience; interest in secure electronically applied signatures followed.
Both of those purposes have long been been settled, but meanwhile this
certain Board staffer spotted provisions in the Texas PE Board's rules that
appealed to her, and a new tempest has brewed up in the teapot over it. 

Charles O. Greenlaw SE  Sacramento CA


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