public policy advocacy for the professional engineer                                       April 30, 2013

While the Senate's Regulatory Reform Act is creating much controversy among environmental groups and local governments there are two items in the legislation that accomplish several of PENC's major legislative priorities.

SB 612 – Regulatory Reform Act of 2013
Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee approved sweeping legislation that would expand efforts begun two years ago that would further reduce or streamline burdensome regulations that are seen as onerous to business. 

The proposed committee substitute for Senate Bill 612, released only hours before the committee meeting, would require cities and counties to repeal any rules stricter than state or federal law. It would also require a list of environmental oversight boards and agencies to repeal or rewrite any state rule stricter than federal regulation on any given matter. Those agencies include the Mining and Energy Commission, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Environmental Management Commission, the Commission for Public Health, the Pesticide Board and the Coastal Resources, Marine Fisheries, Wildlife Resources and Sedimentation Control commissions. The bill would also do away with riparian buffers on private property throughout the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico river basins. The bill would also permit demolition crews, including those working on old power plants, to dispose of potentially toxic materials on site, instead of transporting them to a landfill.

The bill sponsors, Senators Harry Brown, Andrew Brock and Brent Jackson believe these changes are necessary to create a state that is more business friendly.  The committee approved the bill on a voice vote that appeared to be on party lines. Its next stop is the Senate floor sometime this week.

What Does this Mean for Engineers - Of particular interest to Professional Engineers were the sections of the bill allowing for fast track permitting for certain environmental permits and an amendment that provided that a governmental entity (local and state government) cannot require revisions to a Professional Engineer’s application or plan unless the reviewer is a Professional Engineer or an Engineering Intern under the responsible charge of a Professional Engineer.    PENC supports both of these provisions as a way to streamline the permitting process and create more regulatory certainty. 

Fast Track Permitting – The bill directs NCDENR to develop minimum design criteria for stormwater runoff permitting programs and for erosion and sedimentation control plans.  The fast-track permitting process would not include a technical review if the applicant i) complies with the minimum design criteria and ii) submits an application sealed by the appropriate licensed professional.  NCDENR is instructed to consult with a technical working group to develop the MDC and submit their results to the EMC by March 1, 2014.  NCDENR is further directed to identify other permitting programs for which the fast track permitting process would be appropriate and report to the ERC by May 1, 2014.  PENC expects to be involved with the technical working group that will develop the MDC requirements.

Representative Chris Millis, PE, has introduced a companion bill with similar requirements.

PE Review of PE Work - One of PENC’s major Regulatory Reform initiatives has been to allow the Professional Engineer to truly stand behind the work they do on behalf of governmental entities by reducing the sometimes unnecessary review work done by individuals who are not Professional Engineers and, therefore, not qualified to review or critique the work of a licensed professional.  This language would prohibit the state and its political subdivisions from requiring revisions to an application or plan that has been prepared by a PE unless the reviewer is a PE or is an Engineering Intern under the responsible charge of Professional Engineer.  Further, any required revisions that constitute the practice of engineering would have to be provided by written notice to the permit applicant and shall be signed by the PE reviewing or supervising the review of the submission.  

In Other News:

Water Bill
Former U.S. House candidate Carl Mumpower says he may leave the Republican party if the GOP-controlled legislature approves a bill forcing some local governments to give up control of their water systems. "The unprecedented use of eminent domain to seize a city owned water system reveals a party power structure indifferent to the principles upon which that party is founded," the former Asheville city councilman said in a statement. The water bill, as it is commonly know, is controversial in Asheville. The city says it stands to lose millions of dollars and control over development if its water system is merged with a regional authority. City leaders say the legislation is contributing to a $6 million budget gap that could mean closing popular amenities like city pools, athletics and the WNC Nature Center. Republican leaders expect the bill to pass. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory would then have to sign it into law. Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Asheville, the bill's primary sponsor, said he agreed with recent amendments extending the legislation to other parts of the state and helped craft them. House members from Wake and Mecklenburg had the same concerns, he said. The bill would only apply to places that have a Metropolitan Sewer District or are contemplating one. Those places include Asheville and at least two others, he said.(Jon Ostendorff, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES, 4/28/13).

Asheville Water
The Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill transferring the Asheville water system to the Metropolitan Sewerage District. Final approval will be required before the Senate can return the measure to the House for approval of Senate changes. It would then go to Gov. Pat McCrory for consideration. During 22 minutes of debate on the Senate floor, bill proponent Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, called the bill a way to ensure the long-term water supply of the region and Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, called it theft. "This is to hopefully put together a true regional water system ... to have a secure source of water going forward and to give us some continuity in how we grow and provide water," Apodaca said in brief remarks. Nesbitt said legislators had passed a law in 2004 that prevents Asheville from charging customers outside the city limits more for water, "and I thought we had peace in the valley." But then, "We elected Rep. (Tim) Moffitt, who just doesn't like the city of Asheville," Nesbitt said, referring to the bill's primary sponsor, a Buncombe County Republican. "There's a whole new approach by Rep. Moffitt. I don't think he wants to get anything done. He just wants to abuse the city of Asheville," he said.

Nesbitt predicted that passage of legislation strongly opposed by Asheville and others will cause problems over time: "You don't start a regional system and get everybody all tied up in it in a shotgun marriage." He also said senators should beware of supporting the bill because something similar could happen to the areas they represent. "If you don't think it's coming your way, you just wait," he said. "Water is going to be more important than oil at some point and if you don't think your neighbors will steal from you, observe. If you've got water and they don't and they've got power and you don't, they'll take it."(Mark Barrett, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES, 4/25/13).

President Obama Taps Anthony Foxx as DOT Secretary
President Barack Obama today nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Read More Here.

Boards and Commissions
A compromise between House and Senate Republicans on legislation to clear out dozens of positions on some state boards and commissions was put in jeopardy Thursday after Gov. Pat McCrory raised concerns for two of his pending appointments. It appeared the compromise between House and Senate leaders would soon go to McCrory's desk, but GOP legislators went their separate ways when they said the governor's office asked for a fix on the final product. The Senate went ahead and passed the final bill. But the House, seeking to help McCrory, unanimously rejected the measure less than an hour later, leaving the future of all the board and commission changes in doubt. Lawmakers could approve another bill later that contains most of the contents from Thursday's measure.

The GOP wrangling cloaked broader accusations about the bill from Democrats. They have considered the legislation a partisan ploy to let Republicans and McCrory fill positions with their allies more quickly than simply after letting expire the terms of current board members. Many of them were appointed by Democrats. "The bill remains a power grab that's going to be detrimental to the people of North Carolina," said Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, the minority whip, during debate. Republicans said GOP leaders - in control of both executive and legislative branches for the first time in 140 years - should be allowed to put people with like-minded views in place. The compromise released late Wednesday would dismiss immediately or soon all current members of the Environmental Management Commission, Industrial Commission and Lottery Commission and direct the governor and legislative leaders to fill their replacements. It would also reduce the size of Utilities Commission from seven to five members in 2015. Longtime members of the State Board of Elections, including Chairman Larry Leake, also would be shown the door.

Thursday's problem centered around Special Superior Court judges, which are appointed by the governor and aren't subject to elections like other judges. The compromise directed that the judges in place as of April 1 would fill out the remainder of their terms. Their seats would then be abolished. Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake, said two people who had received letters from McCrory to become these special judges hadn't taken office by April 1. The office of House Speaker Thom Tillis identified the pending appointees as outgoing Mecklenburg District Court Judge Lisa Bell and Ebert "Trip" Watson, an assistant district attorney in Bladen County. The bill's language "would affect their ability to take those seats and we didn't want to do that," Murry said. Efforts to resolve the issue quickly Thursday failed.

Senate GOP leaders sounded frustrated with what they considered an 11th-hour alarm from McCrory's office and the willingness of the House to repair the bill's language. "We're not going back to the table" on the bill, said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson and the Senate Rules Committee chairman. "Our people negotiated in good faith for weeks and thought they had it worked out." McCrory spokeswoman Crystal Feldman said the governor won't take a position on the bill until it gets to his desk. McCrory's office has said he didn't seek the legislation.(Gary D. Robertson, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 4/25/13).


If there are questions or you need additional information, please feel free to contact me at bbailey@penc.org or phone 919-834-1144, ext. 1.


Sincerely,

Betsy Bailey
Professional Engineers of North Carolina


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