South Carolina PEs Push Back Against Industrial Exemption Bill
Lobbying by South Carolina professional engineers has successfully limited an attempt to expand the state's industrial exemption.
Governor Nikki Haley signed legislation, ratified by the legislature on June 4, that will provide a licensure exemption for engineering services associated with the design, construction, and maintenance of airplanes. The legislation, however, was pared back from an earlier version that would have allowed any manufacturer to use the industrial exemption for engineering services.
The new law provides a licensure exemption to persons providing engineering services to a corporation that operates in the state with a production certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. The business must not provide engineering services to the general public. The bill defines engineering services as the design, construction, and maintenance of airplanes and manufacturing equipment.
When the industrial exemption bill appeared on a fast track in the House on April 25, the South Carolina Society of Professional Engineers and the South Carolina State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors were alerted by Representatives Kenny Bingham and Nelson Hardwick, both licensed engineers. "We knew some form of legislation was going to pass, but we had to work to stop the bleeding," says Joe Jones, executive director of the South Carolina Society of Professional Engineers.
Senator Shane Martin, an engineering graduate, was instrumental in slowing the legislative process down to provide more time for review of a change to the current industrial exemption, which applies to utilities under the supervision of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina and a federal regulatory agency.
Theresa Hodge, P.E., chair of the licensure board, testified to the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee about the potential harm to the public by rushing to expand the industrial exemption. "As a citizen of South Carolina, I am very proud to have industries like Boeing, BMW, Bridgestone-Firestone, and Bosch in South Carolina. I certainly have no desire to cause undue hardship on them in their manufacturing process," she stated. "However, as a member of the engineering and surveying board, my number one concern is the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of South Carolina citizens."
Hodge pointed out that when the board initiated a review of statutes and proposed modifications to reflect changes in technology and to revise outdated codes in August 2012, no industry representatives responded with concerns about licensure requirements for engineering services. She said that the board will consider appointing a committee to discuss with manufacturers' concerns about the state statutes and to consider changes that will not compromise the public safety.