NSPE Today: Policy Perspectives
NSPE Leaders Meet with PEs in Congress To Advance Profession
BY ARIELLE EISER
NSPE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MARK GOLDEN (TOP LEFT) AND OTHER NSPE LEADERS MET WITH REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN, P.E. (R-AR) IN THE US CAPITOL.
NSPE leaders, including NSPE President Tim Austin, P.E., F.NSPE, President-Elect Kodi Jean Verhalen, P.E., F.NSPE, and NSPE Vice President Tom Roberts, P.E., F.NSPE, met with PE leaders in Congress in late February to discuss how to best promote the profession and protect the public health, safety, and welfare. The meetings with Rep. David McKinley, P.E. (R-WV) and Rep. Bruce Westerman, P.E. (R-AR) built on the collaborative efforts between NSPE and the legislators.
This all too small, but remarkably effective PE delegation has had a major influence on state and even federal policy in the past year alone. The meetings set the stage to create an even more meaningful impact on federal policymaking in the years to come.
In the meeting with longtime NSPE member McKinley, NSPE leaders and the congressman discussed the progress that has been made since he began his tenure in January 2011. This year, several of the long-term initiatives that NSPE has been working on finally came to fruition; in particular, McKinley played a key role in incorporating engineering skills and standards into the newest edition of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the nation’s first overarching national education law since 1965. McKinley and NSPE have worked together year after year to incorporate engineering design skills and concepts, as well as to integrate engineering standards into traditional science standards. Due in part to this collaboration, the Every Student Succeeds Act includes these provisions.
Most importantly, McKinley and NSPE leaders discussed what can be done to elevate the role of the PE and increase awareness of the value of licensure across Congress to inform a multitude of policy areas, such as energy, infrastructure, and natural resources.
NSPE’s meeting with Westerman, a freshman member of Congress who has already demonstrated his ability to ably represent and advocate for the profession, covered many of the same themes. In the last year, NSPE and the congressman have been working diligently to raise awareness of the importance and value of licensure. In particular, NSPE and Westerman have been leading the nationwide effort, in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine disaster, to require licensed PEs to oversee all federal engineering projects. This effort has already started yielding results: Pertinent legislation is being considered and the secretary of the Department of the Interior has publicly expressed interest in strengthening federal engineering standards.
NSPE leadership and our dedicated PEs in Congress are continuously working to build on the momentum that has been gathering over recent years. But there are substantial obstacles. As we know all too well, there are far too few PEs making policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels. NSPE is looking to change that. To raise the profile of PEs serving as elected officials, the Society launched a webpage dedicated to PE legislators. The stories on the page show PEs how they can get involved in the policymaking process. To maximize our efforts and amplify the voice of the PE, we need more PEs in Congress, state legislatures, and on local boards. While we work toward this goal, NSPE and the PEs we do have in Congress are leveraging every opportunity to ensure that the expertise of licensed PEs informs policy decisions and actions. These meetings were an important example of how NSPE plans to move forward.
Arielle Eiser is NSPE’s senior government relations manager.
LONGTIME NSPE MEMBER REP. DAVID McKINLEY, P.E. (R-WV), FAR RIGHT, TALKED WITH NSPE LEADERS ABOUT ELEVATING THE ROLE OF THE PE AND INCREASING AWARENESS OF LICENSURE’S VALUE ACROSS CONGRESS.