Update on the TBPG 2-12-11

Posted: February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized
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The Wise Report
Henry M. Wise, P.G.
February 12, 2011

As I’m sure most of you have heard, Governor Perry has requested the combining or suspension of 40 Boards. The Texas PG Board is one of those he requested to be suspended. All of this is the result of the severe budget deficit in Texas. Suspending the PG Board will save Texas $1.2 million over two years. However, what they don’t seem to talk about is that the Board brings in about twice that amount. No one seems to know if suspension means no fees will be collected. If no fees are collected, there will be a net loss to the State. If fees are collected, who will collect and administrate them? The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR)? They’ve already overseeing a multitude of licenses for 600,000 people. It’s my understanding that they’re backlogged as it is. If the TDLR did administer the PG registrations I’m concerned that the Texas PG will become a worthless piece of paper. How would the TDLR handle complaints? I don’t believe they’re set up for it. Will we combine with the PE Board? They’re not interested either. Besides, we’d have no representation until at least one seat at the Board opens up, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be given it. Do you really want engineers overseeing our work again?

The Governor also stated that the combining and suspending of the various boards is an effort to create a smaller government presence, “get government off the backs of the people.” While many people support this point of view, this is an inappropriate reason for suspending the PG Board. Unlike many Boards, the PG Board wasn’t created because some legislator was reacting to reacting to a specific issue. The Geological Community saw that there was a lot of poor geology being done in the public sector by unqualified individuals and companies and requested the Board be formed. Therefore, in this case, suspending the PG Board is actually against the wishes of the people who are most affected by it.

On February 9, 2011, a group of concerned people got together to discuss possible solutions to this problem. Attending the meeting were representatives of the Houston Geological Society, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Texas Association of Professional Geoscientists, present and former members of the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists, concerned geologists, and licensed surveyors. The surveyors are also on the list of Boards to be suspended and were interested in our ideas. They also provided other pieces of valuable insight into what we are facing as well.

After much discussion on the various alternatives, it was decided that our best bet is to push for the TBPG to be granted self-directed, semi-independent status. The current situation is that all fees and fines sent to the TBPG goes directly into the State of Texas General Fund. The legislature then decides how much the Board will get back. The TBPG has been receiving approximately 40-50% of the fees generated. In addition, if the budget isn’t spent, the excess reverts back to the Texas General Fund. Need more money, over and above what the legislature has decided you need? You have to raise your fees. This is why our annual fees have gone up so much. This happens every two years.

If the Board were to become a self-directed, semi-independent agency, like the PE Board, the PG Board will set it’s own fees and fines and keep everything. They will need to pay an annual fee to the Texas General Fund, but that fee can be negotiated. Most important of all, however, is that the PG Board will be “off the books” as an expense to the State of Texas. The Governor and Legislature is currently only interested in showing that they are reducing costs. How much you may be bringing in doesn’t matter as much. If we can do this, then it’s a win-win situation. The Governor and Legislature get to show that we’re no longer an expense to the State, and we’ll have less of an accounting problem every two years.

Unfortunately, it appears we don’t have much time. So far it appears that the TBPG has a budget for the next two years, but it’s not set in stone yet. The first House Finance Subcommittee meets next week and the full House Finance Committee meets in two weeks. We are currently looking into what we need to do to gain self-directed, semi-independent agency status. We are also looking into obtaining a lobbyist to help us in our endeavors. Lobbyists don’t come cheap, and we are looking for financial support from the various geological organizations around the state. If you are looking to help, I suggest you contact your local geological society and ask them to help us in this endeavor. We need to have a show of support by February 17, 2011. You can also show up to the House Finance Subcommittee and Committee meetings to voice your opinions. We have only just begun our efforts and are still trying to find out which Representatives and Senators we need to contact. I will, as usual, keep you all abreast of the news as it comes up.

Henry M. Wise, P.G.

The Wise Report

2/12/2011

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