Is PE Licensure Under Attack?

National Occupational Deregulation Trend Makes PEs a Target

Over the last few years, there has been a growing movement by some governors and legislators to target the regulation of occupations and professions under the guise of cutting government interference and boosting state economies. On January 10, NSPE Executive Director Mark Golden, NCEES CEO Jerry Carter, and Arizona Board of Technical Registration Executive Director Melissa Cornelius participated in a free webinar to discuss what appears to be a concerted national effort to undermine occupational licensure and how that effort is affecting professional engineering licensure. This national trend was highlighted in the “A Rising Threat Level” feature article in the January/February issue of PE.

In partnership with state societies, NSPE is actively monitoring and responding to those threats whenever and wherever they arise. So far, NSPE has mapped out 26 states where similar legislation, regulations, or executive orders have been introduced, signed, and/or passed. Although much of the legislation does not specifically target professional engineers, by opposing occupational licensure in general, the broad attacks sow confusion about the importance of engineering licensure and its role in protecting the public.

Golden discussed how the threat to occupational licensure isn’t happening in a vacuum and presents increasing problems for the profession. The level of threat varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but he predicts increased threats that will require a diligent approach to ensure that “the baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bath water.”
Cornelius shared how the last two years have been filled with serious challenges for design professionals in Arizona. In 2016, Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order requiring licensing boards and commissions to review requirements and issue feasibility reports. Ducey issued the order to eliminate “unnecessary barriers to entering the job market and to expand opportunities for Arizonians who want work.” Based on the review and reports, some occupational licenses faced elimination.
In the first session of the legislature when Ducey became governor, he proposed the deregulation of the geologists and landscape architects along with other groups like athletic trainers and citrus fruit pickers. Seeing this as a danger to all the design professions, PEs, architects, and land surveyors immediately contacted legislators and stakeholders to explain why it was important to maintain these two learned professions.

Cornelius recalled how some legislators expressed a view that “landscape architects just mow lawns and geologists just collect rocks,” showing that they don’t understand the design professions or the difference between licensure and regulations.
Professional engineers clearly face a greater challenge than other learned professions. While most individual members of the public understand the legal and medical professions, Golden stated, they aren’t as familiar with the engineering profession because they aren’t the individual consumers of engineering services. “It’s harder for members of the public or decision makers that impact that regulation to understand the role of the engineer,” he stated. “That just makes our job that much harder, but all the more important.”


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