Under Attack?

As licensed professionals we often have a state-centric perspective. We’re licensed by the state, we’re regulated by the state, we join our state societies. National societies’ membership has been slipping, and we tend to ignore the national perspective. But it’s often helpful to be aware of events in other states or regions; it can serve to foreshadow what may be heading our way.

In at least three states, the profession is currently facing potentially serious legislative battles. Given the independent nature of the states, these battles are—at least on the face of things—separate and unrelated. The situations have their own backgrounds and histories, they have differing status within the legislatures, and they aim to accomplish different objectives. But they’re all of concern to surveyors. (Please consider that I am not intimately familiar with any of these, but I want to bring them to your attention.)

A bill was recently introduced in the Florida House of Representatives to deregulate a wide variety of businesses and occupations, purportedly to remove a layer of government regulation and bureaucracy in an effort to make government more efficient and save the state money (not necessarily a bad thing). However, its effect for us would have been to completely deregulate the practice of surveying in the state. At a late hour, and after much protest and lobbying by the Florida Surveying and Mapping Society, surveying and mapping was removed from the bill, and it appears that, at least for now, the profession has won a battle in that state.

In Texas, surveyors are facing at least three bills aimed at abolishing or consolidating state regulatory agencies or boards for surveyors, engineers, architects, and geoscientists. Clearly not in favor of eliminating the boards, the society there has proposed a restructuring arrangement that it feels would increase efficiency within the agencies, calling for a single administrative group providing support to the boards, which would remain separate and independent. This situation is on-going and clearly volatile, and at the time of writing a likely outcome is not clear.

Shortly before preparing this column I became aware of a third situation, in Rhode Island. Surveyors there are confronted with House and Senate bills that propose to change the scope of practice for professional engineers. These bills would create a category of “engineering surveys” that engineers would be allowed to perform. While staying clear of boundary surveys, engineers would be lawfully permitted to complete “all surveying and mapping activities required to support the sound conception, planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operation of engineered projects.” I ask you to tell me what that includes? Clearly these activities include a large portion of what is currently regulated as surveying activity under Rhode Island law.

More information can be found on the state societies’ websites.

Each of these situations seems to have different causes: those in Florida and Texas seem to be related to government deregulation and/or cuts, while Rhode Island’s scenario appears to be a movement on behalf of, or by, engineers.

What would make state governments feel they could eliminate regulations of surveyors? Here’s one thought: They don’t think what we do is important because they really don’t know what we do. But what about the engineers—certainly they understand what we do? Are they simply taking advantage of an opportunity for a power grab?

Could either of these situations occur in your state?


About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at tj@profsurv.com.

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