News & Press: Member Update

LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

Friday, August 10, 2018  
Posted by: Michael Hancock
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Member Update

August 10, 2018

 

LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

 

PPC PRIORITIES. The Public Policy Council Steering Committee is the group within ACEC Texas that reviews and determines legislative priorities for the organization. At its meeting in July, the group tentatively approved a focus on these issues for 2019:

 

• Extending prohibition on uninsurable duty to defend and ordinary reasonable standard of care to all contracts (currently only applies to public)
• Fixes to the certificate of merit law regarding claims against design professionals
• Sovereign immunity/limitation of liability on flood control work
• Broaden restrictions against design-builder changing teams language
• Construction defect legislation
• Support utilization of the Economic Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) for flood control infrastructure improvements
• Support local option infrastructure sales tax options with popular vote and sunset provisions

 

To oppose/fix:
• Public Information Act changes
• Revenue caps on local governments
• Restrictive MUD/utility district legislation
• Shifting liability from contractors to owners regarding defects in plans and specs
• Broad requirements for a public vote on all toll projects, although we will support specific project votes where local delegations support


LICENSING OF GEOSCIENTISTS. The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which reviews state agencies for efficiencies and continuing need, has has issued a staff report recommending the abolition of the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists and the repeal of the Texas Geoscience Practice Act. The staff report states that this recommendation is not intended to diminish the practice of geoscience. Rather, it is an assessment of the continuing need for the state to regulate the practice.

 

The report concludes that there is no meaningful threat to public health and safety, that there has been a historical lack of meaningful enforcement action by the Board, and that the direct oversight of geoscientists' work by other state agencies can address any problems.

 

ACEC Texas was somewhat involved in the passage of the law when it was originally enacted in 2003. We opposed it vigorously for several sessions before that, then reached a compromise with the advocates that better defined the boundaries between the practice of engineering and the practice of geoscience. For example, the Act

- prohibits the practice of engineering by a geoscientist;

- provides that a P.E. who is performing work that is both engineering and geoscience does not have to be licensed as a geoscientist;

- prohibits and geoscientist from providing construction quality control, performing materials engineering or testing, or performing review of engineering plans;

- generally permits characterization, appraisal, study, analysis of the geoscientific components of an engineered structure but prohibits the design or review of an engineered structure.

 

Under the staff recommendation, these provisions (indeed the entire act) would be repealed.

 

Some ACEC Texas member firms employ geoscientists. If you have thoughts on this recommendation, please provide them to Peyton McKnight at peyton@acectx.org .

 

There is a strong climate in the current Legislature against unnecessary occupational licensure. Conservatives feel that the state licenses many occupations (and even professions) where regulation is not needed and a free market will take care of any problems. The question will be where that line is drawn, but it is fair to say that continued licensing for geoscientists faces an uphill battle.

 

 

MUNICIPAL MANAGEMENT DISTRICTS. The House Committee on Special Purpose Districts, chaired by Rep. Jim Murphy, is working with stakeholders to develop a legislative template for the creation of municipal management districts (MMDs). MMDs have been somewhat controversial in past legislative sessions because of taxing powers and obscure governance.

 

The discussion includes:

 

- basing a vote on adding land to a district on the value of land rather than the number of owners;

- if the creation requires an ad valorem tax rate, a vote would be required;

- creation of districts must be approved by cities;

- lowering the threshold for dissolution to 2/3 of property owners;

- aligning road powers with other special purpose districts;

- language on bonds and borrowing is still under review.

 

The template will be voted on at a subsequent meeting of the committee.

 

 

TxDOT. All state agencies must submit to the Legislature what is called a Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) that details what they are asking for in terms of funding and staffing. According to a briefing presented by the staff to the Transportation Commission in July, TxDOT intends to request 300 new FTEs. The rationale presented was that in 2017 that agency asked for 600 and the Legislature gave them 300, therefore this is the additional 300 of that request. At the time, that request was focused on rural construction inspectors and contract management and contract execution personnel, not production.

 

 

HARRIS COUNTY FLOOD BOND

 

Harris County voters will vote August 25 on a $2.5 billion bond issue for flood control improvements. The money would fund 237 projects, including $1.2 billion in channel improvements, $401 million for detention basins, and $242 million for land acquisition. ACEC Houston has endorsed the bond issue.

 


 

Calendar of Events

  • October18: ACEC Texas Board Meeting
  • October 24-25: ACEC Texas/Morrissey Goodale Texas AE Industry Conference, San Antonio
  • October 28-31: ACEC National Fall Meeting, Las Vegas


In The News

Go to www.acectx.org for current articles on construction, engineering, public works, transportation, politics and more including:

  • Texas Health Resources announces major expansion of Allen campus
  • UT regents approve $175 million expansion of football stadium
  • Goose Creek CISD preparing for future growth
  • Highlighting the need for the flood bond
  • Flood bond could double with federal aid, county officials say
  • Oil booming again in Texas and the implications could be vast
  • 31 years to build 1.7 miles - the story behind DFW's most congested freeway
  • Small businesses find tight job market makes it hard to hire
  • TxDOT wants public feedback on 10-year plan for state roads
  • Senate provides infrastructure funding in new appropriations bill

ACEC Texas Chapters

 


1001 Congress Ave., Suite 200 - Austin, Texas 78701

512-474-1474 - fax 512-474-1490

www.acectx.org


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2019 ACEC Texas Leadership Academy Session I: Leadership Skills