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MALSCE Members Gather at State House for Design Professionals Day

Type:  Legislation  

This is the article that appeared in the Summer 2010 MALSCE Newsletter, The Surveyor

 

MALSCE Members Gather at State House for Design Professionals Day
By Abbie Goodman, Executive Director, MALSCE

 

On Tuesday, May 11, 2010, MALSCE members, along with ACEC/MA and BSCES members, gathered at the Massachusetts State House for our Annual Design Professionals Day at the State House along with leaders from other engineering and design related associations.  We arranged for meetings with our members’ Massachusetts State Representatives and State Senators based on where our members live and vote. Members discussed several key issues with their legislators.  For more information on these issues, download the fact sheets at: http://www.acecma.org/index.cfm?cdid=10527&pid=10243:

 

Here are brief summaries of the issues:

  • Infrastructure funding:  Massachusetts should invest in maintaining, repairing and upgrading its infrastructure, and identify new sources of revenue to meet the Commonwealth’s infrastructure needs.  Both federal and state studies show that Massachusetts is falling behind in maintaining our bridges/roadways, water/wastewater systems, schools, and other infrastructure.  Lack of adequate maintenance is contributing to a continuing increase in the backlog of unmet infrastructure needs.  In addition, there is limited capacity to fund capital programs.  Adequate investment in our infrastructure will have long-term benefits by improving the quality of life for our citizens, promoting future growth and development, and creating needed jobs.
     
  • Qualifications Based Selection (QBS):   When procuring design services, government agencies should award contracts based on the qualifications of the firms. This is known as Qualifications Based Selection (QBS). Selection of design professionals using qualifications accomplishes the goals of delivering quality projects at competitive costs while safeguarding the public.  The language in Sections 40-45 of Chapter 25 of the Acts of 2009 makes this the law in Massachusetts for horizontal public works projects. It is already the law for vertical public building projects in Massachusetts.  (ACTION UPDATE: The MA legislature passed an FY2010 Supplemental budget on May 13, 2010, which included our QBS clarification language.   Please see sections 4, 6 and 22 in http://www.acecma.org/acecma/file/Supp%20Budget%205_13_10--including%20QBS%20clarifcation%20language.pdf  for reference.  Section 22, in particular, repeals the requirement that MassHighway (now MassDOT) select land surveyors by low bid.)
  • Fixing the Dam Problem: Supporting SB 427:  There are about 3000 dams in the Commonwealth.  About 1700 of these dams are judged to pose some level of risk; 303 are High Hazard dams.   Eighteen percent (18%) do not have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP).  Individual owners responsible for their dams and 56% of dams in the state are privately owned.  Many of these dams have not been maintained at all and do not have EAPs.  SB 427 establishes a state revolving loan fund, reduces some regulatory obstacles to removing unsafe, obsolete dams, increases fines for non-compliance and increases frequency of dam inspections. It requires DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) to inventory dams annually and ensure EAPs (Emergency Action Plans) in place for Significant/High Hazard dams.  The bill also encourages fish-friendly hydro electric dams and requires review of homeland security issues relative to dams.
  • Mechanics Lien Law for Design Professionals:  A consensus amendment to the existing Mechanic’s Lien Law, supported by design professionals, contractors and subcontractors, would allow licensed design professionals, architects, engineers, land surveyors and licensed site professionals, to lien property when the owner and/or developer fails to pay for agreed-upon services. Many of these design firms are small businesses whose day to day operations are severely impacted when owners and developers fail to pay invoices.
  • Maximizing Private Sector Innovation:   The engineering industry plays an essential role in helping state agencies deliver services to taxpayers. From designing solutions to address congestion on roadways, ensuring continued access to safe drinking water, to putting green technologies to work to make industry and government more sustainable, engineering firms in Massachusetts are working to solve public policy challenges and improve the quality of life for residents.  Unfortunately, efforts have been made in the past to prevent state agencies from taking advantage of the value and technical innovation that the private sector engineering and land surveying community in Massachusetts offers. Delivery of critical infrastructure improvements requires a close partnership between public and private resources. The public sector has a key role to play in this process, providing the overall management and oversight of public projects, while the private sector brings the innovation, expertise, on-time delivery and long-term cost savings to ensure that taxpayer dollars are well invested.
  • Support for Treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease:   For a variety of reasons, the medical community and insurance companies in Massachusetts have been reluctant to diagnose and treat chronic Lyme disease. Doctors fear negative repercussions from medical associations and regulators. Insurance companies refuse to cover long-term antibiotic treatments. Controversy continues as to the best diagnosis and treatment of the disease with antibiotics proving the most successful.  Although the disease was first identified in Connecticut, Massachusetts is second only to New York in the number of cases reported in 2008 (4,582). This brings the total number of confirmed cases in Massachusetts to 21,818.  The Center for Disease Control records show a 242% increase in the annually reported cases from 2000 to 2008.  Field personnel from engineering and land surveying companies are at risk of contracting Lyme on a regular basis.  Several bills have been consolidated into HB 4480 that was favorably reported out of Committee on Health Care to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.
  • Why Reverse Auctions are a Bad Idea for A/E/C Services:   During the spring of 2010, the legislature has been working on Municipal Relief bills, designed to help cities and towns by streamlining certain laws pertaining to municipalities.  Section 19 of HB 4631, the House version of the bill, would have a harmful affect on the design and construction of public municipal projects and on public safety. This section provides that municipalities may enter into procurement contracts in the amount of $25,000 or more utilizing reverse auctions for the acquisition of supplies and services. HB 4631 defines reverse auctions as “An internet based process used to buy supplies and services whereby sellers of the supply or service being auctioned anonymously bid against each other until time expires and until the governmental body determines from which sellers it will buy based on the pricing obtained as a result of the reverse auction.”   ACTION UPDATE:   During Design Professionals Day, engineers and land surveyors successfully advocated for excluding the services of engineers and land surveyors from procurement via reverse auctioning in the Senate version of the Municipal Relief bill.  Unfortunately, that language did not remain in the Conference Committee report that was passed and sent to Governor’s desk. MALSCE is still working on this issue.

You can download the Fact Sheets we used in the meetings with State Representatives and State Senators at the link above. 

 

You can download the Infrastructure Reports on the Status of Freight Rail, Bridges, Roadways,  Water and Wastewater at: http://www.engineers.org/resources/news.htm.

 

Future reports on public buildings, dams, freight, and other infrastructure elements are in development.  Please feel free to contact your legislators about these issues and to contact me if you need any more information. We certainly were not able to see people from all 200 legislators’ offices on May 11, but with your help, we can reach many more of them.

 

Why do we do Design Professionals Day?
Professional engineers, land surveyors, and other design professionals are important resources for public policy makers at all levels of government. We bring problem solving skills, insights and expertise needed by our elected and appointed officials. They may not always agree with our views on specific laws or regulations, but they are always interested in listening to what professionals from their home districts have to say. This is how legislators educate themselves—and they want to hear from us.

 

The Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers (MALSCE) promotes professional land surveying and engineering registration and provides professional development programs for surveyors, engineers and related professionals throughout the state.  MALSCE also promotes the land surveying profession to State House leaders and the public. We work for passage of legislation and policies that create a favorable climate in which the land surveying and engineering community and related sectors can help Massachusetts grow and improve the quality of life for its citizens.


Abbie Goodman can be reached at agoodman@engineers.org or 617/305-4112.
 

 

 

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