2017 Legislative and Regulatory Watch List

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What are the legislative and regulatory threats professional engineers will be facing in 2017? Every year, PEs face challenges to the practice of engineering. And every year, in response, NSPE works to protect the PE license and promote continuous focus on the public health, safety, and welfare.

Scrutiny of Occupational Licensure

The debate over the role of government in regulating occupations and professions has recently come to the forefront. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational licensing directly affects nearly 30% of US workers. Barbers, cosmetologists, florists, interior designers, naturopaths, manicurists … and the list goes on. While the work of professional engineers—like that of doctors, registered architects, and attorneys—clearly affects the public health, safety, and welfare, it is not uncommon for policymakers to categorize highly educated and trained PEs with barbers and cosmetologists in the debate over eliminating occupational licenses. Federal and state elections have set the stage for a new era of deregulation. For the last several years, momentum to roll back occupational licensing has been growing. NSPE expects 2017 to be a watershed year for this issue.

Changes to Licensing Board Composition and Oversight

The 2015 US Supreme Court decision in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners vs. Federal Trade Commission has led some states to consider changing the oversight and composition of their licensing boards to ensure compliance with the decision. An increasing number of states are expected to introduce legislation and regulations to ensure that states and state boards do not subject themselves to increased liability. These changes increase oversight and supervision of licensing boards, often by the state attorney general. They also, in some instances, change the composition of the state board to include nonactive market participants.

Attempts to Erode Qualifications-Based Selection of Engineering Services

In 2016 there were several legislative and regulatory attempts to erode or eliminate qualifications-based selection of engineering services. In a political environment of deregulation, NSPE anticipates that there will be increased threats to QBS in 2017.

Weakening Licensure Requirements for Federal Engineers

The past year was an extraordinary one for strengthening requirements for licensure of federal engineers, a top and longstanding NSPE priority. Regulatory advocacy initiatives yielded strengthened requirements for professional engineers in engineering projects across the country, particularly in the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. The Trump administration and 115th Congressional leaders have pledged to deregulate and roll back many of these regulatory requirements, which has the potential to impact the strengthened requirements already enacted as well as prospects for further requirements in these and other federal agencies.