NCEES leadership responds to criticism over efforts to support surveying licensure
Responding to an article published in POB, the organization clarifies its position on the role of surveying in public protection and the activities included in surveying licensure.
Submitted by Dean Ringle, P.S., P.E., the 2019–20 president of NCEES, and David Cox, chief executive officer of NCEES.
NCEES thanks Jeffery Lucas, P.L.S., Esq., for his recent article raising points on the role of surveying in public protection and the activities included in the regulation of the practice of surveying (“Traversing the Law: The Surveying Profession and the Defense of Property Rights”). With that in mind, we wish to provide a few points of clarification for all professional surveyors — not simply to address Mr. Lucas’ conclusions.
NCEES Model Law
First, it is important to be clear on what the NCEES Model Law is, how it is developed, and its role for member licensing boards.
NCEES serves as an organization through which its members — the engineering and surveying licensing boards in all U.S. states and territories — can counsel and act together to better discharge their duties as individual, autonomous regulatory agencies. One of the primary ways that NCEES fulfills its vision and supports its mission is by providing the Model Law.
The Model Law reflects best practices as determined by the NCEES member boards and is a model for state practice legislation. It is designed to assist legislative counsels, legislators, and NCEES member licensing boards with preparing new legislation or amending existing legislation.
Changes to the Model Law typically go through a two-year process of committee study and Council vote. The members of these committees are a combination of professional engineers, professional surveyors, and member board staff, such as administrators or attorneys. When a committee recommends changes to the Model Law, it is presented to the Council — the member licensing boards of engineering and surveying in the United States. These boards meet once per year to debate and vote on motions such as these. A majority vote of member boards is required to modify the Model Law.
NCEES has been providing the Model Law as a resource for member boards and state legislators since 1932, updating it as needed to align with current practices. It provides this document as a model for individual state or territorial practice legislation in an effort to promote uniformity and simplify the interstate licensure of engineers and surveyors.
NCEES member boards dedicate a great deal of time and energy to maintaining the manual and carefully consider each amendment. But the Model Law is just that — a resource. The state and territorial licensing boards work together to maintain this publication for their individual jurisdictions to use as they see fit.
Regulating surveying for public protection
One of the issues that the article raises relates to the following Model Law sentence: “In order to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public, the practice of engineering and/or surveying in this jurisdiction is hereby declared to be subject to regulation in the public interest” (Section 110.10, General Provisions). The phrase “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public” was adopted in the Model Law in 2014, replacing “safeguard life, health, and property and to promote the public welfare.” NCEES made the change to provide consistent phrasing regarding public protection throughout the NCEES Model Law, Model Rules, Continuing Professional Competency Guidelines, and Manual of Policy and Position Statements. The phrase “health, safety, and welfare of the public” is used in the NCEES vision and mission, and therefore was chosen for these documents to provide consistent wording.
The decision to remove the word “property” was not made lightly. Two different committees considered the issue, but ultimately, they felt that “life” and “property” could be removed and the definition streamlined because those issues were covered under the umbrella of “health, safety, and welfare.” NCEES member boards debated this issue and likewise ultimately agreed that considerations for life and property were adequately covered in the term “health, safety, and welfare.”
Several of the committee members who studied this issue, including the chair, were licensed professional surveyors. The member licensing boards who voted to change the language included, among others, professional surveyors. While Mr. Lucas may disagree with the choice of wording, we respectfully take issue with the assertion that the NCEES member licensing boards — which count many professional surveyors among their members—do not understand why surveying is regulated.
Defining the practice of surveying
The article further argues that the activities listed under the definition of surveying in Model Law Section 100.20 B.4, for the most part, are not related to the protection of property and associated rights and therefore are not related to core issues of surveying. We contend that all seven activities do, in fact, relate to the practice of surveying.
The practice of surveying is composed of multiple disciplines, or specialty areas, and the activities in the Model Law definition of surveying ensure that the public is protected when any professional surveying services are provided.
The current definition of surveying included in the Model Law is the result of much deliberation among professional surveyors, member licensing boards, and surveying societies. It involved several years of research and study by NCEES committees and task forces, which included the expertise of many professional surveyors. It was developed in consultation with member licensing boards as well as a multiorganizational task force of surveying societies, including the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the National Society of Professional Surveyors, among others. This definition was approved by a vote of the NCEES member boards.
Each activity included in the definition of surveying requires the knowledge of measurement science and the expertise of a licensed professional (as demonstrated through education, examination, and experience), no matter what area of surveying practice is being performed. The goal of the Model Law is to develop recommended language to regulate professional practice, not the tools or methods used to produce the final work product.
NCEES Model Rules provides further guidance on the definition of the practice of surveying. The publication, also developed and maintained by the member licensing boards of NCEES, is available for boards to use as a guideline for engineering and surveying licensing laws and ethics.
Model Rules Section 210.25 contains Inclusions and Exclusions to the Practice of Surveying. This section, which was developed based in large part on recommendations from the previously mentioned multiorganizational task force, provides a more defined outline of what activities are within the definition of surveying and what activities are not within the definition of surveying and not regulated.
The Model Rules also contains a Rules of Professional Conduct section, which defines the licensed professional’s ethical obligations to the public to safeguard their health, safety, and welfare when providing professional services.
Contributions of surveying professionals and licensing boards
The men and women who make up the U.S. boards of licensure for engineering and surveying are dedicated in their commitment to advancing licensure in order to protect the public. They devote thousands of hours each year at the state and national level to support licensure and uphold its safeguards for the American public. We welcome debate on the language included in the Model Law — or indeed any NCEES policies or best-practice manuals. We also acknowledge the energy and expertise given by member board members and staff across the United States through their work with NCEES and their individual boards.
Dean Ringle, P.S., P.E., is the 2019–20 president of NCEES and a member of the Ohio State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors. A licensed professional surveyor and professional engineer for more than 30 years, Ringle is executive director of the County Engineers Association of Ohio and serves as chair of the Ohio Public Works Commission.
David Cox is chief executive officer of NCEES. In this role, he serves as secretary of the board of directors and chief employed officer of NCEES, with authority over its daily operations. Before he was appointed CEO of NCEES in 2018, Cox previously served as executive director of the Kentucky State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors for 17 years.