Opinion piece by Jones Studio’s Neal Jones, AIA, Secretary of the Board, for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration’s Summer 2020 newsletter.
On May 28, 2020, the Legislature passed SB1274 against serious Democratic and public opposition to it and the COVID-19 Pandemic. As a result, the composition of the Board will change and the necessary technical expertise of the Board’s members will be replaced by a majority of public members who may know nothing about engineering and architecture. The law becomes effective on August 28, 2020.
The Governor announced his intention to ‘rein in’ engineers who, he alleged, were keeping people from earning a living in his Jan. 2020 State of the State address. However, he and his office representatives never reached out to the Board or to industry representatives to learn about the profession of engineering or to talk to the Board about how effectively it licenses qualified professionals and enforces its laws to protect the public.
It is clear the Governor’s Office does not have a working knowledge about this Board: that it is multi-disciplinary-a combined board of engineers, architects, geologists, landscape architects and land surveyors, none of which has a voting majority over any other. Our Board operates entirely off of the revenue it obtains from licensing applications and renewals, and it deposits 10% of its revenues into the State’s General Fund for use by other agencies. Our Board operates with a staff of only 21 employees, on a $2.3 million annual budget. That is impressive! The Board issues approximately 1,000 new licenses, renews approximately 10,000 licenses yearly and adjudicates approximately 150 public complaints annually by a group of VOLUNTEERS. Compared with other State regulatory boards, this Board should have served as an example of how effective government regulation should operate to serve and protect the public, including its licensed population.
Instead, when SB1274 was first heard in the Senate Commerce Committee, Governor’s Office representatives explained to the Committee that it was their intent to make the State’s Boards and Commissions more compliant with a 5-year old U.S. Supreme Court decision, the FTC v. North Carolina Dental Board. NC Dental is a singular example of a regulatory board in North Carolina that behaved badly. It was comprised of members elected by registrants (not appointed by the Governor) who had no term limits. It issued cease and desist orders to people without the legal authority to do so. The abuse of power by the North Carolina Dental Board is a case that is easily distinguishable from how this Board operates.
Now that SB1274 will become law, there will be more consumer protection and technical expertise on the State’s Barber Board (which regulates only a few hundred licensed barbers) than there will be for the nearly 18,500 registered professional engineers and the 6,000 registered architects in Arizona. This should be alarming to you. As an interesting ‘aside,’ SB1274 only targeted technical boards and not health regulatory boards in Arizona. If the Governor’s arguments were true, those boards would also benefit from the so-called NC Dental decision and guidance.
Most upsetting is the fact that the Bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ugenti-Rita, refused to meet with interested stakeholders to hear the voluminous concerns regarding the potential negative impact the Bill could have upon public protection. As a result of the hundreds of comments registered in opposition to the Bill, she simply amended it in the Senate to provide that at least one of the six public members that will now sit on the Board as a majority voting block be either a lawyer, part of the construction industry, or be an unlicensed product designer.
How does SB1274 affect registered engineers and architects directly? Subject matter expertise is vital to the effectiveness of this Board. The issues the Board faces every month are very technical in nature, and the potential public harm is great. Loss of that vital expertise could negatively impact public safety and a misinformed final decision could negatively impact a licensee. If a registered professional engineer or architect must face a complaint at the Board, the technical expertise necessary to understand the complexities of their practice will no longer be on the Board.
Currently, the Board is made up of (8) eight licensed design professionals and one public member. Our public member is a construction law attorney, which is a common and prudent appointment.
Alongside Neal, the whole of Jones Studio opposes the passage of SB1724.
“The truth, I feel, is less about Governor Ducey being mis-informed, and more about him being philosophically skeptical of educated people controlling the personal freedoms of others,” said Principal Brian Farling, AIA.
AIA Arizona Executive Vice President Tina Litteral, Hon. AIA, CAE, encouraged AIA members to apply for the Public member positions on the AZBTR in an email newsletter from June 24, 2020.
We encourage you to email your legislators and voice your opposition to SB1724. Although the bill has already passed (entirely along party lines and signed by Governor Ducey) and will go into effect on August 28, 2020, your voice matters!
Senate Commerce Committee SB1724 Votes