MALSCE Government Affairs Update – February 2024
Government Affairs activities and news for MALSCE members
by Abbie Goodman, MALSCE Chief of External Affairs
Save the Date: May 30, 2024, 9 – 11:30 AM: Engineers and Land Surveyors Day at the State House in Great Hall and around the State House.
Davis-Bacon Update - Potential Impact on Land Surveying Crews
- As reported previously, the Davis-Bacon Updates took effect on 10/23/2023. Both ACEC National and NSPS held webinars on the section pertaining to land surveying crews in November with the same instructor.
- On Nov. 7, ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas challenging the DOL’s final rule. NSPS is reportedly supporting the suit in some way, but is not mentioned in the press release: ABC Press Release on lawsuit.
- There have been no updates on this pending litigation as of 2/13/2024.
Separately, in January, we heard about this: Federal Acquisition Regulation: Use of Project Labor Agreements for Federal Construction Projects: A Rule by the Defense Department, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on 12/22/2023: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-27736
- As a result of this final rule, procurements under the Brooks Act are exempt from Project Labor Agreements on federal construction projects greater than $35M. This does not prevent states from acting separately. ACEC opined that engineers (and land surveyors) must maintain their independence, pushing engineering firms into PLAs could create a conflict of interest that could compromise project success and public safety, creating liabilities for the industry.
- Exclusion of Professional Engineering Services/Brooks Act
- Several respondents expressed concern that the rule may be construed to require employees of professional engineering firms that perform various architectural and engineering professional services to become a party to a PLA. The respondents requested the rule exclude architectural and engineering services because such services are separate and distinct from construction services as recognized in 40 U.S.C. chapter 11, the Brooks Architect Engineer Act.
- Section 3 of the E.O. that applies the PLA requirement to contractors or subcontractors “engaged in construction on the project” excludes professional architecture and engineering services that are covered by the Brooks Architect Engineer Act. Given the distinction in FAR part 36 between construction and architect engineer contracts, architect engineer contracts issued under FAR subpart 36.6 are not covered by this rule.
- Note: This new rule does not apply to the Davis-Bacon Update regarding survey crews. So, survey crews working under contract to construction contractors on federally-funded construction sites still need to be paid prevailing wage.
Governor Healey Files H2, FY2024 Budget Proposal
Governor's Budget, H2
Transportation Briefing Sheet
Fair Share Investments in Education &
Transportation Briefing Sheet
Climate Action Briefing Sheet
Governor Healey filed her Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) budget proposal on January 24. The filing of the Governor's budget comes during a period of slowing revenue growth in Massachusetts. The proposal also comes just weeks after the Governor initiated $375M in spending cuts and lowered the revenue estimate by $1B for FY24. The FY25 budget will be based on a revenue forecast of $40.202B, which represents a 2% increase over the revised estimate for FY24. Neither estimate includes revenues from the State's new surtax on income over $1M, which is projected to bring in between $1.7 and $2.1B in FY25. Despite slowing revenues, both the Governor and legislative leaders have rejected the prospect of raising taxes as part of the consideration of the FY25 budget.
The Governor has already signaled several priorities that she will include in her FY25 budget proposal, including over $500M in new investments in early education and childcare, $8.7B in local aid and education funding (a 3% increase over the current fiscal year), and doubling operational funding for MBTA operations. Once the Governor's budget is filed, legislators will formally begin the process of determining spending priorities during what has been called a difficult budget cycle. The House will begin budget debate in April and Senate debate will follow in May.
State Senate Votes To Leverage Rainy Day Fund Interest:
- In October 2023, Governor Maura Healey proposed using interest generated from the state rainy day fund as matching funds for federal grants. The policy proposal is designed to help Massachusetts compete for billions of federal dollars available through competitive BiL (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) grants to the states. competition among states. The Massachusetts Senate voted on January 11, 2024 to pass this bill to be engrossed by a vote of 39-0. The bill would leverage interest from the state's stabilization fund to better compete for federal dollars, and to pay down long-term debt liabilities.
Governor Healey Resets Budget Outlook With Spending Cuts, Downgraded Forecast: Includes Plan to Cut $375M from FY2024 Budget More
ACEC National continues to advocate for a Congressional fix to this tax issue that impacts many engineering and land surveying firms. They continued the ad campaign targeting DC and certain house districts to try to fix this issue. More: https://www.acec.org/advocacy/protecting-innovation/
10th Edition of Building Code Moving to Public Hearings:
At the 12/12/23 BBRS (Board of Building Regulations and Standards) meeting, Comm. Sarah Wilkinson of the Division of Occupational Licensure reported that on 12/11/2023 at 5 pm, the Healey Administration gave final approval to the Division to move the proposed 10th edition 780 CMR state building code to public hearings. Notice of Public Hearings Public comments will close on March 6. The unofficial 10th edition of the code is here: https://www.mass.gov/handbook/unofficial-tenth-edition-base-code-draft-780-cmr
Division of Occupational Licensure: Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors
- Next Board of Registration of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors public meeting is posted as: February 22, 2024. The Board of Registration is planning to hold this meeting on Teams. For meeting details, go to this page two business days before the meeting and scroll down to the meeting listing to download the agenda with either location or connection instructions.
This is a summary of major issues discussed at the meeting, based on observing the meeting on Teams:
- The Division of Occupational Licensure records its boards’ meetings.
- This meeting was held on Teams only. The planned February and March meetings will also be on Teams. The Board plans to return to hybrid meetings later in 2024, if at least one-quarter of the board is able to attend in person.
- Chair Paul Tyrell called the meeting to order at 9:00 am.
- The Board discussed the inaccuracy of plans being recorded at the Suffolk Registry of Deeds, which is accepting inaccurate plans: the first 10 plans filed in 2024 did not meet 250 CMR or Registry Standards. This will be discussed in greater detail at the February meeting, as this item was not on the formal agenda.
- The board approved the December 21, 2023 Public Session Meeting Minutes: see above
- Board Counsel Legal Report from Patricia LaFore:
- No Change: Draft Continuing Professional Competency Regulations are still in the Executive Office of Administration and Finance and then would move on to the Secretary of State's office for review.
- Executive Director Kathleen McNally discussed that the board had finalized consent agreements with 2 people: Mr. William Parrot, who was fined, and Mr. John Spink, who voluntary surrendered his license.
- Here are copies of consent agreements between the board and certain respondents in 2023:
- Conversion of Professional Surveying exam section on Jurisprudence to a computer based testing platform is moving slowly. Virtual Inc (formerly PCS), the exam service, has submitted a proposal with price to the Division for the cost of the conversion.
- On Jan. 12, the exam committee reviewed the last round of the JP exam from the fall. Of eight people taking the exam, 2 were MA residents. The committee established a passing rate of 70%. Three of the eight passed the exam and will be licensed as Professional Land Surveyors in Massachusetts.
- Email from a concerned public works engineer: The board discussed an email it had received from a public works professional concerning work done on CAD designs overseas. The board indicated that if the work was supervised by the PE licensed in Massachusetts, there was no issue.
- I asked the staff to send the dates for the spring PS exam.
- The Board did not finalize draft responses to email questions they received at their October meeting, referenced in my November report. Based on the discussion, board, and staff will draft responses to the message that may be reviewed at the February. The meeting adjourned at app. 10:15 am.