What Have Republicans Got Against Engineers? (video)

Construction in downtown Tucson

I have been in the legislature now for five years, and every year we have some bills that dumb down professions by reducing educational and experience requirements and/or eliminating licensure and oversight. What could go wrong?

Today in the Commerce Committee, we heard Senator J.D. Mesnard’s SB1062 on engineering definitions. I don’t know what the Republicans have got against engineers, but engineering is a perpetual target for deregulation.

SB1062 bifurcates (Legislators’ favorite word) the engineering statute and makes two levels of engineers. The current definition of engineer includes knowledge of math and the physical sciences along with education and experience in engineering practices (plus other specifics). That definition has been moved to a section called “professional engineer.” Under SB1062, “professional engineers” have advanced engineering education, experience and an engineering license but not necessarily a bachelor’s degree. Mesnard said that projects that impact public health and safety — like building roads, bridges, and structures including homes would require a professional engineer. SB1062 creates a lower level profession called “engineer.” This is a person who “identifies as an engineer” but has no license. The qualifications refer vaguely to education and experience, but nothing is defined. An unlicensed “engineer” can provide services that fall under the domain of “engineering practice” (also defined in the bill).

I was glad that we had some virtual testimony from engineers in committee. They were very helpful. One of the Democrats had asked Mesnard if this two-tiered engineering statute was being done in any other states, and he didn’t know the answer to that question. The engineers did. No, this is not being done in any other state. They also provided testimony regarding how lax our engineering regulations already are. For example, aerospace and mining engineers — two of Arizona’s biggest industries — are exempt from licensure and oversight by technical professions board that oversees licensed professionals.

In committee, there was a lot of discussion about engineering consultants and other “engineers” who don’t need to be licensed because they aren’t building structures. Why shouldn’t they be licensed?

I voted “no” on this bill because we already have lax regulations in engineering. Why race to the bottom in professions? Also, how are consumers, including local small businesses, supposed to know if they are hiring somebody who is actually qualified to make engineering decisions or somebody who just “identifies as an engineer” and perhaps has a knack?

Fun Fact: Arizona has some of the lowest qualifications for engineers and also has a high number of people registered and licensed as engineers.

UPDATE: SB1062 was signed by Governor Doug Ducey in March 2021.