2011 Legislative status Part 2: “The Devil in the Details”

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Uncategorized
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As I stated before, I needed to break up the legislative report into two parts.  The first part dealt with the broad picture.  This part will deal with specifics of behind the scenes issues.

The first item I wish to address is what the Governor has told us.  According to the Governor’s office, their intent is not to eliminate the Geosciences license but to reduce the size of Government.  Two ideas that were proposed were merger with another agency or becoming a Self-Directed, Semi-Independent Agency (SDSI).  The effect of either proposal would be to remove the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientist as a “Line Item” from the state budget.  Either we would be buried into the budget of another agency (agency merger) or appear only as a revenue source (SDSI agency).  The point is that the Governor did not want to “see” us in the budget.  So those are the two options we had to work with this session.  Unfortunately, we found out, in short order, that the SDSI option would not be supported by the Legislature.

The second item to be addressed is agency merger.   The Task Force was told that this was a possibility but we knew that a merger for the sake of a merger was not acceptable.  Our primary goal was to ensure that the TBPG would still function as a separate board whether on its own or under another agency.  Early on a bill written by Representative Geren, HB 2480, proposed to merge the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists.  The Task Force knew that this would not be a good scenario for the profession because we would have been poorly represented on the new Board.  So the Task Force began work on a substitute bill that would combine the administrative functions of the two agencies but retain their respective boards.  As we were proceeding to draft this legislation we found out that the Texas Society of Professional Land Surveyors had already begun to write a similar bill, asked if we could agree in concept to an Agency with multiple boards, and if so would we like to discuss the details.  The Task Force agreed.

A meeting was scheduled in Austin and representatives from the Land Surveyors, Architects, Geoscientists and Engineers met.  Bottom line, the meeting was a bust.  It lasted about an hour.  One of the groups arrived at the meeting and stated they were now no longer interested at this time in pursuing this idea.  With no substitute in hand we were left no choice but to oppose HB 2480.  As Kevin Coleman and I visited the various Representatives, we learned that Representative Geren was not going to introduce his bill at all.  So that left us back at where we started at the beginning of this legislative session.  At the beginning of the day the bill was going to be submitted and by the end of the day it went away.  Funny how things in Austin work.

So where does this leave us?  If the Governor does not line-item veto our funding, the TBPG will survive for another two years.  In all likelihood, we will need to begin working on a solution for next legislative session.  Representative Calagarri this session introduced a bill to merge the Architects, Engineers and Surveyors into one board.  His bill is not likely to get to the floor for a vote.  But what this means is that there will be some sort of legislative study and some sort of recommendation for combining various Boards next session.  This recommendation very well may include the TBPG with the other professionals listed.  Whether it is a combined board or several boards administered by one over-arching agency remains to be seen.  What is clear is that we must redouble our efforts to formulate a plan for next session that puts the TBPG into the best position possible.

We need your help.  In order for us to be successful we need your membership and donations to pay for our lobbying efforts.  If you are not a member then please fill out the online application.  IF you know someone who is not a member have them join.  To make a donation you can go to our the TAPG website and make a donation.

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