By Darrell W. Fuller, PLSO Lobbyist
The 78th Legislative Assembly is winding down, and may even complete its work before the end of June. The Oregon Constitution mandates they end (Sine Die) no later than July 11th.
Here is an update on legislation I have been monitoring on behalf of PLSO. This update includes some "late breaking" news on one of the bills.
SENATE BILL 297
This bill, requested by OSBEELS, reorganizes and updates the statutes related to testing and registering Engineers, Land Surveyors and Photogrammetrists. PLSO has been actively engaged with OSBEELS, and other stakeholders, on this bill throughout the session. You can read the final version of the bill by clicking on this link:
The PLSO Legislative Committee supported the intent and most of changes incorporated into SB297. Amendments to the original bill were drafted and adopted in the Senate as a result of a stakeholder meeting with OSBEELS in February.
Nevertheless, there was considerable discussion about two issues related to this bill. First, PLSO agreed to assist ACEC-Oregon with an amendment to clarify that hydrography is within the scope of Land Surveying and that hydrographers should be registered as Land Surveyors in order to practice in Oregon. An amendment was drafted, circulated and had some measure of support in the Capitol. However, a group of hydrographers loudly objected to the amendment. In fact, they even had an amendment drafted which would have prohibited OSBEELS from ever testing, registering or regulating hydrography in any fashion whatsoever. As a result of the competing amendments, PLSO, ACEC and PEO agreed to meet with the hydrographers after the session to look at various options with regard to how hydrography will be regulated in Oregon. So, stay tuned on this issue as it develops.
Second, the bill changes the word "curriculum" to "program" in the sections related to using a four-year college degree as the prerequisite to sitting for an exam. PLSO's Legislative Committee objected to the change out of concern that it would limit the kinds of four-year degrees which would qualify an applicant to sit for the exam. Many colleges and universities do not have "Land Surveying" programs even though their curricula includes all the classes needed to qualify to sit for the exam.
PLSO had an amendment drafted restoring the original statutory language. The amendment was supported by both ACEC and PEO. Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene), the Chair of the House Business and Labor Committee -- which has jurisdiction over the bill -- agreed to support adopting the PLSO-requested amendment.
Here's the late-breaking updates: OSBEELS held an emergency Board meeting by conference call on Thursday, May 28th. With no PLSs on the phone, and while in Executive Session so only members of the Board were part of the deliberations, OSBEELS decided to oppose the PLSO amendment restoring the word "curriculum". This unexpected opposition resulted in a conference call between PLSO leadership and Mari Lopez, the administrator of OSBEELS. PLSO invited ACEC and PEO leadership to participate in the conference call, as well.
After a thorough discussion of (1) the current statute, (2) the applicable administrative rules which currently clarify how OSBEELS interprets the word "curriculum", (3) why the word "program" was substituted in the bill draft, and (4) the process for updating the administrative rules if the bill becomes law, PLSO's leadership voted to withdraw its objection to the word change from "curriculum" to "program". PLSO will play a significant role in advising OSBEELS on how to modify their administrative rules to ensure there are no unintended consequences resulting from the statutory change.
On June 3rd, the House Business and Labor Committee voted unanimously to report SB297-A to the full House of Representatives for a final vote. Assuming the bill passes the House (a safe assumption), its final stop will be Governor Kate Brown's desk for her signature.
SENATE BILL 383
This bill changes the pleading requirements to be met in order to file suit against design professionals (Architects, Engineers, Land Surveyors and Photogrammetrists). The bill will require the plaintiff's counsel to include a statement from a similarly licensed design professional that defective work was done. Currently, plaintiff's attorneys can include design professionals in a lawsuit with no substantiating evidence. It is costly for design professionals to remove themselves from these suits even if it is clear they did nothing wrong. The final version of this bill will result from ongoing negotiations between design professionals and the trial lawyers. As of the writing of this update, the bill was scheduled for a Work Session on June 4th in the House Consumer Protection and Government Efficiency Committee after passing the Senate on a 29-0-1 vote early in the session. To read the bill, click on this link:
HOUSE BILL 2831
This bill modifies the authority to use property line adjustments in resource zones (Measure 49 claims). The PLSO Legislative Committee was uncertain if this bill was a "Land Surveying" bill or a land use bill. The Legislative Committee voted initially to oppose the bill, subject to learning more about it and its impact on Land Surveying. After some research, PLSO withdrew its opposition and is now neutral on the bill. You can read the bill here:
The bill passed the House of Representatives on a 40-18 vote and is currently awaiting a vote in the full Senate.
This has been a fairly good session for Land Surveying. Nothing truly bad has happened to PLSs and a couple of the bills on track to become law may even improve the profession in the coming year (new laws go into effect January 1, 2016). Of course anything can happen between now and when the politicians finally leave town... it's not over, yet.
If you have any questions about the information presented above, or anything else related to the legislative process or state agency regulation of Land Surveying, please email me any time at email@example.com or call me at 971-388-1786. It is a pleasure working with PLSO leadership and representing you at the Capitol in Salem.