Sub. H.B. 337 — sponsored by Representative Tom Lendrum, PE (R-Huron) — was introduced on June 28, 2001 and requested by the Board in order to modernize and streamline its registration act. The bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously on February 13, 2002; passed the Senate unanimously on April 17, 2002; was signed by Governor Taft on May 7, 2002; and becomes effective August 7, 2002.
The bill is a consensus bill due to more than two years of discussions between the Board and statewide engineering and surveying associations (OSPE, ACEC Ohio, CEAO and PLSO) as well as other stakeholders such as the Associated General Contractors, the Ohio Home Builders Association and the Ohio Bar Association.
The bill updates and modernizes the Board’s registration act enacted in 1933 which has only been substantially amended in the early 1970s (to require a college degree in order to become a Professional Engineer) and the mid 1980s (to require a college degree to become a Professional Surveyor).
On October 8, 2001, S.B. 77 became effective in order to delete overly burdensome ownership requirements for companies offering engineering and surveying services. H.B. 337 finishes the updating process and continues to protect the public without any growth in government or new burdensome regulations; in fact, we have reduced regulation in this area.
The primary revisions to the law contained in H.B. 337 are summarized as follows:
- To provide that a Board member will continue term of office until a successor takes office. Under current law, a member’s term may only continue a maximum of 60 days. This becomes problematic if there is a delay in the appointment of a successor.
- To revise the experience requirements to become a Professional Engineer or Professional Surveyor to allow up to two years of experience prior to college graduation. Current law only allows credit for engineering experience after college graduation, which unfairly penalizes co-op and nontraditional students who alternate college studies with work experience in order to become a more productive and well rounded employee and also to mitigate the financial concerns of a college education.
- To delete the provisions allowing for registration as a Professional Engineer or Professional Surveyor by "eminence" without examinations or as a Professional Engineer with a "related science" degree such as math, chemistry, physics, geology, or oceanography. This assures that registrants are properly educated and tested in order to protect the public and is parallel to the requirement for other professionals such as doctors, attorneys, and others professional occupations.
- To allow an applicant who fails an examination the opportunity to retake the examination twice a year rather than once a year.
- To require a signature, date and seal on all engineering or surveying work products and to provide for the use of electronic seals. Current law requires only a seal, which can be easily copied. The additional requirement for a signature and date will help to assure that the work was prepared by a properly registered professional and the use of electronic seals, with appropriate safeguards, will expedite the timing of approvals and bids and therefore the construction process.
- To standardize the annual renewal fee at $16 for either a PE or PS, eliminating the $21 annual renewal for "dual registrants" in current law.
- To give the Board the authority to impose a fine of not more than $1000 for each offense for which a registrant is found to be guilty after a hearing to assure due process. The Board’s enforcement efforts are always aimed at bringing registrants into compliance with the code of ethics and standards of practice, and the fining authority will provide another "tool" in that effort.
- To update and streamline the Board’s investigation and disciplinary process. For example, current law requires that an adjudication hearing be held even if no hearing is requested, thereby wasting time and money for all parties involved.
- To prohibit a public agency from accepting or using engineering or surveying plans which were not prepared by a Professional Engineer or Professional Surveyor. Current law only gives such authority to "officers of the law of this state". An Attorney General’s opinion issued in 1999 advised that a public agency, under current law, does not have the authority reject engineering plans not prepared by a Professional Engineer. Clearly, this needs to be corrected in order to protect the public safety. One can only imagine the possible harm of a complex bridge or high-rise building designed by an improperly trained and licensed individual.