2017-2018 SEAOC Legislative Committee End-of-Year Report
Friday, September 28, 2018
The SEAOC Legislative Committee recommends positions to be taken by the SEAOC Board on various issues that come before the California Legislature and other government agencies and commissions: from bills promoting improved seismic safety of our building codes and our built environment to regulations affecting the legal aspects of the licensing and practice of structural engineering.
As has been reported to the SEAOC Board and membership throughout the year, the SEAOC Legislative Committee (“Leg Comm”) was extremely busy this year. Over a dozen bills were tracked within the California Legislature and even a few were tracked in Congress (mainly related to NEHRP Reauthorization). Clearly the majority of effort was focused on two bills – AB 1857 and AB 2681 (both by Asm. Nazarian) – that moved through the California Legislature from initial introduction through various policy committee hearings to inevitable amendments negotiated to appease various opposing perspectives and ultimately passage through both the Senate and the Assembly to the Governor’s desk. At the time of this report (9/11/18), the Governor has not yet indicated his intent to sign or veto each bill. (Please refer to past articles for additional background and details about each bill.)
While not directly responsible for the original nor the final language of either bill, SEAOC has been very involved throughout the entire process and has been influential in providing sound technical guidance to help shape each bill as much as possible. On both bills, the SEAOC Leg Comm effectively interacted with SEAOC committees (such as Seismology, Existing Buildings, Resilience, and Professional Practice) to obtain appropriate input from technical and policy perspectives. SEAOC has also collaborated extremely effectively with other organizations in support of each bill, specifically: Dr. Lucy Jones on AB 1857 and EERI on both AB 1857 and AB 2681. SEAOC has also reached-out to other organizations such as CALBO and the Seismic Resilience Initiative to collaborate as much as possible (albeit our positions were not as well-aligned with these groups as with other groups). Members of the SEAOC Leg Comm have had one-on-one meetings with various lawmakers and members of their staff and have testified before numerous policy committees in the State Capitol. SEAOC members have been able to explain technical topics in terms that the audience can understand and have promoted SEAOC and our profession as trusted experts who take very seriously our responsibility to provide safe structures for our communities. Through our efforts on these bills, SEAOC has deftly navigated unfamiliar political waters to not just become familiar with the process but to become influential. SEAOC issued a legislative alert as the bills headed to the Governor’s desk encouraging members to write letters urging the Governor to sign both.
Due to the focus on the two major bills, the SEAOC Legislative and Licensing Committees did not make any additional progress toward advancing our "significant structures" proposal to require the design of complex and important structures be performed by licensed SEs. However, the Board did discuss the concept with the Executive Director of BPELSG during one of the Board meetings. The Leg Comm will be ready to collaborate with the Board and the Licensing Committee when the time is right to revisit this proposal.
SEAOC also continues to engage with ACEC, ASCE, AIA, and other professional organizations as part of the Architects & Engineers Conference Committee where each group shares issues that are being tracked and may be.
The SEAOC Legislative Committee is still a fairly new committee (not quite 5 years old in its current form), but this year has been very successful in continuing to build our organizational capacity and resources. The enthusiastic response from many SEAOC members to our frequent updates and calls to action is a clear sign that there is interest and passion for SEAOC to continue to pursue legislative activities that support the structural engineering profession.
If you are interested in learning more about or participating with SEAOC's Legislative Committee, please contact Ryan Kersting, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Don Schinske, email@example.com.