NSPE Gateway to Government Summer 2010
In This Issue of PEG e-News...

NSPE Annual Meeting

1. State and national leaders will participate in a two-day NSPE State Leader Conference. The conference focuses on building strong leadership teams. Day one will facilitate a session on association "Roles, Rules, and Responsibilities." Leaders learn life-enhancing skills that will help them be a better leader. Day two will begin with a face-to-face session with NSPE leaders. PE topics of importance, best practice exchange, and an interactive session (elevator pitch) with Ira Koretsky, the chief storyteller, will round out the two-day session.

2.  The most prestigious awards granted by the National Society of Professional Engineers will be presented during the NSPE Awards of Excellence Luncheon. The NSPE Distinguished Service Award and the NSPE Young Engineer of the Year Award will be conferred. In addition, the NSPE-PEI New Product Awards and the NSPE-PEE Engineering Excellence Award will be presented.

3. "NSPE Education Workshop: A Day of Engineering Substance" (ethics and licensure)...participants will earn 7 PDHs for only $99. All-day session includes lunch with "speaker of note.”

4. During the educational workshop lunch, NSPE’s partnership with EPA Energy Star will be introduced by EPA speaker, National Program Manager Bob Sauchelli. Bob will explain the EPA Energy Star building program and highlight how PEs are crucial to its success.

5. NSPE Educational Foundation Golf Tournament. This tournament benefits the NSPE Educational Foundation, state educational foundations, and interest group scholarships.

 

2010 PEG Fellowship Winner

Jeff Roman, P.E., is the 2010 PEG Management Study Fellowship winner. He is a principal at EnSite, Inc., a design and land development consulting firm in Fort Myers, FL, and serves as the company’s director of engineering and CFO. Jeff obtained his B.S. in civil engineering from Lawrence Tech University in Southfield, MI. He has been admitted into the executive MBA program, Class of 2012, at the University of Florida and will start this August. He is a licensed professional engineer in Florida and Michigan, a Florida Certified Stormwater Inspector, and a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Building Design & Construction. Jeff has worked on many LEED projects and is one of the most experienced LEED accredited civil engineers in southwest Florida.

Jeff prides himself in his efforts and commitment to give back to his profession and the long-term success of the community in which he lives, works, and plays. He judges local science and inventors fairs, volunteers for MATHCOUNTS, and speaks to local college students about the civil engineering profession. EnSite recently launched EnRichment 2010, a campaign aimed at educating students and the community about sustainability. Jeff has given presentations on alternative stormwater designs and is researching pervious, sustainable paving options for use on local park projects. He was also recently featured in a PE magazine article, talking about how EnSite uses social networks and social media for marketing, networking, and educating the community. He is a member of the Florida Engineering Society, NSPE, USGBC, Chi Epsilon, and Tau Beta Pi. Jeff lives in Cape Coral, FL, with his wife Becky and their two young sons.

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Engineers on Ice

If an oil spill like the one we are currently experiencing in the Gulf of Mexico were to occur in the Arctic, the presence of ice would complicate the problem, impeding usual mitigation techniques. As the oil industry continues to explore farther north, the issue and solution become more pertinent.

The Ice Engineering Facility in New Hampshire aids government and private companies in solving ice-related problems. The facility, which opened in 1976, used physical modeling to do research, analysis, and find solutions to ice issues on bodies of water.

To learn more about their work, see the June 2010 issue of PE magazine.

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Health Care Reform

On March 23rd, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) and the Reconciliation Bill, Health Care and Education Affordability Act (H.R. 4872).

Employees, firm leadership, and the general public alike, whether for or against the reform, are trying to get a handle on how it will affect them. New regulations are being published with detailed guidance on how to implement the reforms that will affect group health insurance plans. Here is a brief overview based on preliminary information. You can find more detailed information at the following links:

www.healthreform.gov

http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform

docs.house.gov/energycommerce/TIMELINE.pdf

Some plan medical benefits may be exempt from some of the new provisions at this time, so consult an HR professional for additional information.

Beginning on June 1, 2010:

  • Pre-existing condition limitations will be eliminated on children up to age 19.
  • Children up to age 26, regardless of IRS dependent status, will be eligible for a parent’s employer-sponsored coverage if the child does not have access to other employer-provided coverage.
  • Lifetime limits on “essential” health benefits will be removed (pending regulations and guidance to be issued by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).
  • Small Business Tax credits for small employers’ contributions to purchase health insurance for employees.
  • Rebates for Medicare Part D enrollees who enter the “donut hole.”

Beginning on January 1, 2011:

  • Over-the-counter drugs will no longer be eligible for reimbursement under a health care flexible spending account (FSA), unless prescribed by a physician.
  • Creation of a Simple Cafeteria Plan as a vehicle for small businesses to provide tax-free benefits to their employees.
  • Employers will begin reporting the cost of each employee’s group health coverage (including health, dental and vision insurance premiums) on your W-2 in 2011. The cost will not be treated as taxable income, but informational.
  • Fifty-percent discount on all brand-name drugs for Medicare Part D enrollees in the “donut hole.”

Beginning in 2012:

  • Plans will begin using a standardized benefit summary making it easier for you to compare benefits between different plans.

Beginning in 2013:

  • Annual contributions to health care FSA will be capped at $2,500 per year.
  • Taxpayers earning at least $200,000 (or $250,000 if married filing jointly) will have a 0.9% increase in Medicare payroll tax on their earnings above the threshold. These individuals will also pay a new 3.8% Medicare tax on unearned income (e.g. capital gains interest, dividends, and other investment income).
  • Increased income threshold for claiming itemized deduction for medical expenses from 7.5% to 10%.

Beginning in 2014:

  • All children under the age of 26, regardless of their access to other employer-sponsored coverage, will be eligible for coverage under a parent’s employer-sponsored plan.
  • Any pre-existing condition limitations in medical plans will be removed.
  • Waiting periods before coverage begins will be limited to no longer than 90 days.
  • Annual limits on “essential” health benefits may not be imposed.
  • All Americans and legal residents will be required to have a minimum level of health coverage or pay a penalty.
  • Employers with 50 or more employees may face a penalty tax if they do not provide acceptable affordable coverage to their full-time employees.
  • The health insurance Exchanges will be available for individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance, through individual states. There is no guarantee that coverage provided to an individual through an Exchange will be more affordable than acceptable employer-provided coverage.
  • If an employee’s cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored plan is more than 9.5% of household income, he or she may be eligible to opt-out of coverage and receive federal subsidies through a state-based Exchange.
  • If an employee’s cost of coverage is between 8–9.8% (to be fixed to 9.5%) of household income, the employer may provide a voucher, with a value equal to the employer contribution under its plan. Employees may use this voucher to purchase subsidized coverage through an Exchange.

Beginning in 2017:

  • Large employers may be eligible to purchase coverage from a state-based Exchange.

Beginning in 2018:

  • High cost health plans will pay a 40% excise tax. The tax is imposed on the plan provider (usually the insurance carrier), not directly on employees covered under the plan. Under certain self-insured scenarios, the employer would be responsible for the excise tax.

This overview is an interpretation of detailed and complicated legislation. It does not cover all aspects of the reform. 

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State Infrastructure Projects Can Help Fuel Economic Recovery

Steven Storts

Amid high unemployment and a stalled economic recovery, there is agreement among some state governors, transportation officials, and private business interests regarding infrastructure projects: states that support free enterprise policies fare better economically and create more jobs than states that don’t.

This consensus was one of several analyses published in a study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Enterprising States, which was released at a May summit hosted by the organization in Washington, D.C. Conducted by The Praxis Group, the study highlights innovative, successful state strategies for job creation and economic development, including investments in highways, mass transit, and other transportation facilities.

Spurring creation of 20 million jobs over the next decade—restoring the seven million jobs lost to the current recession and creating 13 million new jobs for a recovering nation—was the driving message of the one-day forum. Business and political leaders traded ideas on balancing policy choices regarding taxes and spending, and they discussed how states must make these decisions while continuing to retain and attract private investment. State governors participating at the summit were Donald Carcieri (R-R.I.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Jack Markell (D-Del.), Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), Rick Perry (R-Tex.), and Bill Richardson (D-N.M.).

Thomas Donahue, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, addressed the difficulties faced by governors attempting to implement infrastructure improvements. “Our infrastructure is in many ways crumbling around us,” he observed. “Every governor understands the frustration of not getting a highway built.” However, he did allow room for optimism, saying, “By embracing many of the strategies at the core of our free enterprise system—entrepreneurship, open trade, and competitive tax rates—states can help jumpstart our economic recovery and create more jobs.”

The Enterprising States study supports the upside of Donohue’s statements and finds that targeted investments in state infrastructure projects can create growth-friendly environments in local communities. But the study also cautions that high tax rates do not lead to either healthy economies or budgets. “On the contrary, many states with the highest tax rates and most onerous regulatory regimes have experienced the worst budget crises,” according to the findings. “Taxpayers and businesses are leaving these states. States with more favorable tax and regulatory climates did not experience budget problems nearly as severe.”

At the summit, one of the coauthors of the study, Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow at Chapman University, cited construction and transportation as two of the biggest financial losers during the recession, but he also pointed out that reversing this trend by investing in infrastructure is one way to help restore the nation’s economy to good health. He further noted that public/private partnerships, in addition to megaprojects involving billions of dollars, are on the rise in some states.

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), echoes Kotkin’s message. “Investment in transportation has turned out to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to create jobs under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009,” he contends, emphasizing that although transportation received only about 6% of the $862 billion recovery package, it represents nearly 25% of the jobs created by the program to date.

Looking at highway investment alone, continuing progress has been made in putting stimulus funding to work, Horsley continues. As of earlier this year, reports show that $24 billion in highway dollars had been obligated out of the $26.8 billion made available to states. Another $21.2 billion was earmarked for other transportation projects, such as mass transit. Of the 11,100 projects designated, 2,140 projects had been completed, and another 6,893 were under contract.

Does this work translate into true recovery? “If unemployment in the construction industry overall stands at more than 20% today,” Horsley explains, “then a legitimate question to ask is whether stimulus investment in transportation has made a difference or not. The answer is clearly yes.”

New labor figures appear to support the AASHTO executive director’s claim and could be a harbinger of slow economic recovery in the private sector if the modest yet hopeful trend continues. The construction industry gained 14,000 jobs in April, the second consecutive month of construction job growth, according to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The slight rise over the last few months is attributed to government stimulus spending on transportation and other infrastructure projects.

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FEYA Interviews & Keynote speaker on Youtube

On February 18, Lisa M. Fotherby, Ph.D., P.E., of the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation was named the 2010 Federal Engineer of the Year (FEYA) at a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

On YouTube, NSPE has posted taped interviews with the Top 10 candidates for the Federal Engineer of the Year Award, including an interview with Fotherby, and remarks by FEYA Keynote speaker, Dale E. Klein, Ph.D., P.E., commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The videos are available on YouTube.

To get more information on the FEYA competition, including an application, please visit the NSPE Web site.

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2009-10 PEG Executive Board Contact Information

Chair
Louise Carosi Doyle, P.E.

Chair-Elect
Sandra Knight, P.E., F.NSPE, M.ASCE

Secretary
John Cardarelli II, Ph.D., P.E.

Immediate Past Chair & BOD Representative
Tim Madhanagopal, P.E., BCEE, F.NSPE

Northeastern Regional Vice Chair
David Alan Janover, P.E.

Southeastern Regional Vice Chair
D. Scott Wolf, P.E., PLS

Central Regional Vice Chair
Kirankumar Topudurti, Ph.D., P.E.

Southwest Regional Vice Chair
Mark Dubbin, P.E.

Western & Pacific Regional Vice Chair
Michael Simpson, P.E.

North Central Regional Vice Chair
Gary J. Pendergrass, P.E., RG

Young Engineer Representative
D. Scott Wolf, P.E., PLS

 

NSPE Regions

Central Region
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin

North Central Region
Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota

Northeast Region
Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont

Southeast Region
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia

Southwest Region
Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming

Western Region
Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington  [ return to top ]

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