Jeff Stephenson, P.E., is the Team Leader of [...]
By: Joe Meads, P.E., Principal/Owner
On April 19, 2018 the ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 316 by Governor Kay Ivey was held in Montgomery. I had the privilege to represent the Alabama Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as the Legislature Chair and Advisory Captain along with ASCE Vice President Brad Williams, P.E. Also in attendance was our Bill Sponsor, Senator Clyde Chambliss, P.E., as well as representatives from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Alabama (ACEC) and the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BOL).
SB316 is the most important bill for the engineering profession during my career because it protects Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) which is the foundation of our practice. QBS is the practice of selecting a consultant based on their qualifications then negotiating the fee as opposed to bidding and selecting the cheapest price. A good example, I recently received a call from an architect asking for a bid on a project. I explained that we couldn’t do that based on our Code of Ethics/QBS. The architect said that went against fair trade practice. My reply was, yes, it does, but as engineers we value public health, life, safety, property, and welfare over fair trade.
This bill is the culmination of several years of work by ASCE Alabama, ACEC Alabama, and members of the BOL. The need for legislation began several years ago when the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners vs. Federal Trade Commission (2015) was a U.S. Supreme Court case on the scope of immunity from U.S. Anti-Trust law. This put our profession in a position where our BOL was concerned about immunity related to fair trade practices and also unable to enforce QBS. In 2017, Senator Chambliss led the passage of an Immunity Bill (HB231) for the BOL with broad support from our profession, but it didn’t include QBS. SB316 confirms QBS for all engineering services and land surveying work (with the exception of boundary surveys on non-engineered projects), expands the BOL to include two public members, and includes updating various items requested by the BOL. The bill also clarifies the rule making authority of the BOL regarding state and federal laws and establishes that anti-competitive rules which prioritize public health, life, safety, property, and welfare are permissible.
Being involved in getting this bill passed has been a defining moment in our careers. I am thankful to Senator Clyde Chambliss, P.E., ASCE Vice President Brad Williams, P.E. and the ASCE team, and Alabama ACEC President Elect Jim Meads, P.E., Renee Casillas and the ACEC of Alabama team for their contribution to help pass this bill thus ensuring continued high ethical standards within our industry.