by Abbie Goodman, ACEC/MA Executive Director
On November 15, 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a series of safety recommendations it classified as "urgent." The NTSB released a report with four recommendations for NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas, and one for the state, seeking elimination of the professional engineer licensure exemption for public utility work and a requirement for a professional engineer's seal on public utility engineering drawings. The report recommends NiSource revise the engineering plan and constructability review process across all subsidiaries, review all records and documentation of natural gas systems, apply management of change processes to all changes to identify threats that could result in a common mode failure, and develop and implement control procedures during gas main modifications to mitigate risks.
To make the change in state law to eliminate the Professional Engineer licensure exemption for public utility work and mandating a requirement for a Professional Engineer's seal on public utility engineering drawings would require legislation to amend M.G.L. c. 112, s. 81R(l):
Section 81R. Nothing in said sections shall be construed to prevent or to affect:
(l) the performance of engineering work and services by a person, firm or corporation subject to the jurisdiction of the department of public utilities or the department of telecommunications and cable which work and services are performed as part of their employment and for the benefit of such person, firm, or corporation;
Section 81R is known as the industrial exemption.
On November 20, 2018, Governor Baker Filed Legislation that would impact Professional Engineers:
Link to Proposed Legislation Filed by Governor Baker: An Act to Ensure Safety and Soundness of the Commonwealth’s Natural Gas Infrastructure
As of November 20, dates have been set for two December hearings on Beacon Hill into natural gas safety and a bill designed to amplify pressure on National Grid to end its lockout of gas workers.
Rep. Thomas Golden and Sen. Michael Barrett, the co-chairs of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, announced the hearings on November 20, a week after the Senate put forward a different schedule that did not include participation from the House.
The first hearing on Dec. 4 will focus on a bill (H 4960) filed by Rep. James O'Day of Worcester in July that would force National Grid to extend health insurance benefits to locked out gas workers during the labor dispute. The second hearing will take place Dec. 11 in Boston and will focus on statewide natural gas infrastructure and safety. A third oversight hearing on the specifics of the Merrimack Valley gas disaster from September will be scheduled with guidance from local municipal officials once the restoration process is complete and people are safely back in their homes and will focus on the specifics of the incident there.
In addition to the state-level hearings, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation is planning to hold an oversight hearing in Lawrence on November 26 at 9 am in Lawrence, MA. Hearing Details
The deadline for Columbia Gas customers to be full restored is December 16, 2018. Columbia Gas reported that as of November 16, 2018 approximately 49% of residential gas meters and 67 percent of business meters have been restored.
During the week of November 12, 2018, the Department of Public Health released the most recent statistics related to opioid deaths in the Commonwealth. There were 1,518 opioid deaths between January 1 - September 30, 2018, compared to 1,538 deaths over the same time frame last year. Despite the new state laws and increasing public attention, this accounted for only a small decrease in the number of deaths. Governor Baker, who sponsored the CARE Act related to prevention and education during this legislative session stated "The opioid epidemic, fueled by an all-time high level of fentanyl, remains a tragic public health crisis responsible for taking too many lives in Massachusetts, there is much work left for all of us to do." The final opioid abuse legislation included language that expands access to Narcan by allowing pharmacies to dispense the drug without a prescription; it also allows certain sheriffs within Massachusetts to purchase naloxone at a lower cost through the state's bulk purchasing program and allows local municipalities to exchange unexpired naloxone.
(With thanks to Rasky Partners) Massachusetts saw heavy voter turnout this election - higher than the past 2 midterm elections. Nationally, approximately 114M voters turned out, compared to 83M voters in 2014. State highlights include the following:
Republican Governor Charlie Baker beat Democratic challenger Jay Gonzalez with 66.5% of the vote compared with 33.5% for Gonzalez. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren claimed victory over Republican State Rep. Geoff Diehl with 60% of the vote. Rep. Diehl had been a strong supporter and MA Campaign Chair for President Donald Trump.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who defeated ten term incumbent Congressman Mike Capuano in the 7th Congressional District Democratic primary, secured a general election victory and will now become the first black woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.
After beating 9 other candidates in a crowded Democratic primary, Lori Trahan bested Republican Rick Green to win the general election to represent the 3rd Congressional District.
Republican State Representative Jim Lyons from Andover, known as the most staunchly conservative voice in the Massachusetts Legislature, lost his seat to Democratic newcomer Tram Nguyen. Four-term Republican State Senator Richard Ross from Wrentham lost his seat by more than 2,000 votes to Democratic challenger Becca Rausch.
In what was the most expensive ballot campaign of the season, more than 70% of voters rejected Question 1 with a “No” vote. The question proposed to increase nurse staff ratios in hospitals and had been led by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. Additionally, 68% of voters voted “Yes” to keep a state law that protects transgender people from discrimination intact. Question 3 had the bi-partisan support of Governor Charlie Baker, Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka.
The Board of Registration cancelled its November 15, 2018 meeting. The next meeting will be on December 20, 2018. The agenda for this meeting will be posted during the week of December 17 on the Board's webpage here. (See Upcoming Events). Issues for discussion on December 20 are expected to include:
Board Counsel Legal Report:
These are pending issues in the Division of Professional Licensure
Additional resource links:
250 CMR –version as finalized through the Secretary of State’s office as of 2-10-2017
Scroll down on that webpage to separate sections of 250 CMR
DigSafe: This bill is now H4420, An Act Relative to Public Safety in Excavation
ACEC/MA is actively supporting H4420, An Act Relative to Public Safety in Excavation. This bill is currently in the House Ways & Means Committee. Abbie Goodman has had several meetings with legislative leaders about this bill in recent weeks to advocate for this bill to move during this current informal session, which ends on December 31, 2018. This bill would allow land surveyors to access Dig-Safe information earlier in a project, when the project is in preliminary design. Specific, accurate utility location information at the design phase of projects will promote more efficient design and construction of facilities and protect the general public, utility company assets and the lives of contractors. It also will help to reduce the number of construction change orders for public and private sector projects, saving money during construction and improving construction site safety.
Please contact your Massachusetts State Representative to urge positive action on H4420 this session.You can find your current State Representative (Representative in the General Court) by entering your home address on this state site: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/wheredoivotema/bal/myelectioninfo.aspx
In late September 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report on Licensure portabilty that is part of the FTC’s ongoing Economic Liberty Task Force initiative to reduce or eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing requirements
The Report is entitled: Options to Enhance Occupational License Portability.
Professional Engineers, Professional Land Surveyors, Registered Architects and other Design Professionals living in and licensed in Massachusetts are sought after to serve on certain public boards and commissions created under state law or by regulations. This is an opportunity to participate directly in government, by providing your professional expertise to help shape public policy for the benefit of residents. For more on serving and how to apply, see this link: https://www.engineers.org/get-involved/public-boards-commissions
ACEC/MA members only pay the ACEC/MA member rate for registration. Check the ACEC/MA Member Directory to see if your firm is an ACEC/MA member. If your firm is an ACEC/MA member, you are a member.
Important: You must use the account, including the username and password, of the individual you wish to register.
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If you have additional questions regarding registration, contact us at 617/227-5551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration is processed through the ACEC/MA associated website, www.engineers.org. ACEC/MA is supported by the staff of The Engineering Center Education Trust.