For all the latest NSPE legislative activities visit the NSPE website.
NSPE Endorses Veterans Licensure Legislation
On December 5, NSPE President Robert Green, P.E., F.NSPE, sent a letter of support for S.1579, the SCRA (Servicemembers Civil Relief Act) Enhancement and Improvement Act of 2013, to Senator Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Rockefeller (D-WV). S.1579 ensures that our nation's service members are recognized for their invaluable contributions to our nation and for their personal sacrifices. NSPE particularly commends S.1579 for acknowledging the need to protect the professional licenses of uniformed services members.
NSPE strongly supports Section 104 of the legislation, which states that if a professional license issued by a state or local licensing authority to a service member would otherwise lapse during a period in which such service member is eligible for hostile fire or imminent danger special pay, the state licensing authority shall delay the expiration of the license at least 180 days. NSPE further endorses Section 104 of the legislation for applying the 180-day cushion to continuing education requirements. While NSPE believes strongly that state licensure requirements are vitally important, NSPE also believes that state licensure authorities should show a reasonable level of flexibility toward those defending our nation. You can read the press release, with a link to the letter.
NSPE Urges US Office of Personnel Management to Strengthen Qualification Standards
On October 18, NSPE sent a letter urging the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to strengthen its qualification standards for filling federal professional engineering positions. OPM recently issued a proposed draft revision to the current qualification standards that would add ABET-accredited engineering technology bachelor degrees as qualifying for professional engineering positions. While NSPE greatly values the important role of the engineering technologists as part of the engineering team, the "professional engineer" is a protected term in all 50 states.
The existing individual occupational requirements for a professional engineering position in the federal government do not meet the requirements for PE licensure. In a letter to OPM Deputy Associate Director Kimberly Holden, NSPE President Robert Green, P.E., F.NSPE, writes, "Licensed professional engineers have always and continue to play a critically important role in designing innovative solutions to societal challenges and in protecting the public health, safety, and welfare. At a time when the federal government is seeking to promote broad economic prosperity and to enhance our national security, all federal agencies must show leadership and establish and maintain high engineering qualifications and standards for employees in the federal workforce." NSPE strongly urged the OPM to instead revise the qualification standard for professional engineering positions to require a PE for professional engineering occupations. You can read the press release, with a link to the letter.
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NSPE has released the first edition of its Engineering Body of Knowledge (PDF) that outlines the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to shape the future of engineering, across all disciplines of practice. The document is intended for a broad audience, including engineer interns, practicing engineering supervisors and mentors, employers, engineering students and faculty, licensing boards, engineering societies, accreditors, and specialty certification boards.
The EBOK is the depth and breadth of knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate to enter the practice as a professional engineer in responsible charge of engineering activities that potentially impact public health, safety, and welfare. It addresses three basic topics: guiding principles and trends that will shape the practice of engineering in the future; the key requisite attributes of professional engineers; and the broadly described capabilities and abilities necessary for the professional practice of engineering.
13 Key Attributes of a Successful Professional Engineer
- Analytical and practical;
- Thorough and detail-oriented in design;
- Able to apply mathematics and sciences;
- Knowledgeable in a selected field of engineering and conversant in related technical fields;
- Skillful in management;
- Able to provide leadership;
- Professional and positive in attitude;
- Aware of societal considerations in an increasingly global context;
- Aware of laws, standards, and codes;
- Ethical in practice; and
- Dedicated to increasingly critical lifelong learning.
The EBOK also contains 30 capabilities that address basic or foundational knowledge, technical knowledge, and professional practice knowledge. The capabilities include mathematics, design, engineering economics, safety, sustainability and environmental impact, communication, ethical responsibility, and leadership.
NSPE is seeking feedback on the first edition of the Engineering Body of Knowledge from members in all engineering disciplines and employment sectors. Please review the EBOK document (PDF) and send your comments to NSPE General Counsel Arthur Schwartz at email@example.com.
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Flying under the radar of recent congressional debate on the national debt ceiling was the less-publicized crisis looming over the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). Taking a precautionary tone, US transportation officials contend that highway and transit programs potentially face their own “fiscal cliff” unless legislative action is taken this year to address major funding challenges.
The Infrastructure for the Future Summit, held in Washington, D.C., in November, explored sustainable solutions to an impending transportation crisis and the best ways to implement effective change. Hosted by the American Highway Users Alliance and Volvo Group, the event examined issues confronting the nation’s infrastructure and specific challenges that threaten the US economy. Attending were congressional staff, transportation stakeholders, federal and state policymakers, logistics experts, and business leaders whose bottom lines depend on efficient, safe, and reliable roads and bridges.
In his presentation, Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, noted that surface transportation has long relied on user fees, and the backbone of federal surface transportation has been the HTF since 1956. However, he reported that national investment on roads and transit has gradually declined over decades in terms of federal transportation spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product, according to both the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget.
“In 2011, motor fuel taxes comprised 91% of Highway Trust Fund revenues,” the AASHTO official pointed out, “but they face an uncertain long-term future.” Of that 91% HTF revenue, 66% is generated through gasoline fuel taxes, with the other 25% coming from diesel and special fuel taxes. Truck/bus/trailer taxes, tire taxes, and heavy vehicle use fees comprise the remaining 9% of revenue.
Wright cites three HTF “headwinds.” First, he says, Americans are not driving as much. According to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statistics, the number of miles driven annually peaked in March 2008 and has declined since then. Next, the gas tax has lost its purchasing power, as much as 37% from 1993 to 2012. Wright predicts that the purchasing power loss will be 52% by 2023. Finally, alternative fuel vehicles will further erode future HTF receipts, with substantial drops occurring between 2012 and 2022.
To date, general fund transfers have avoided the fiscal cliff, with transfers totaling $53.3 billion since 2008, but Wright says that “outlays are outpacing HTF receipts, and that about $15 billion per year and more will be required for a foreseeable future.” The impending fiscal cliff, he forecasts, is that federal highway obligations will fall nearly 100% in fiscal year 2015 without new revenue.
The positive news, AASHTO reports, is that some states are already addressing the transportation revenue challenge, not waiting for a federal fuel tax increase. For instance, fuel tax hike proposals have been approved or are under consideration in California, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Another state initiative has Indiana directly allocating gas-tax revenue to direct transportation uses, and in Oregon, transportation stakeholders recently began testing a vehicle-mileage-tax pricing system.
Virginia has actually reduced its gas tax, while increasing other state taxes (including sales, vehicle registration, and other variable taxes or fees), yielding a net increase for transportation uses. Pennsylvania is also considering this approach. Arkansas is directing its state sales tax toward transportation uses, with Idaho and West Virginia looking to do the same.
Using initiatives similar to those in Pennsylvania and Virginia, the following have approved or are considering sales taxes on fuel, increased vehicle registration fees, or other variable taxes or fees: the District of Columbia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
On the federal front, US Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in December introduced H.R. 3636, the Update, Promote, and Develop America’s Transportation Essentials (UPDATE) Act. The bill aims to phase in a 15-cent-per-gallon tax increase over the next three years on gasoline, moving it upward to 33.4 cents per gallon. The diesel fuel would also see an increase, topping out at 39.4 cents per gallon. “The gas tax hasn’t been increased since the beginning of the Clinton administration,” says Blumenauer. “Today, with inflation and increased fuel efficiency for vehicles, the average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as [he or she] did in 1993. It’s time for Congress to act.”
In 2009, the FHWA estimated that more than $70.9 billion worth of repairs were needed just to maintain safe infrastructure. That number has since increased, Blumenauer adds, and the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that surface transportation in the United States now requires more than $2 trillion of investment in order to remain economically competitive. In addition to ASCE showing early support for the UPDATE Act, the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), Associated General Contractors of America, and the American Public Transportation Association have voiced their strong approval.
ASCE Executive Director Pat Natale, P.E., cites his group’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, an assessment of infrastructure across 16 sectors, in which the cumulative grade-point-average for the nation’s infrastructure rose slightly to a D+ from a D in 2009. “This bill represents a major step forward in addressing how to fix America’s surface transportation infrastructure,” he emphasizes. On a similar scale, ACEC says H.R. 3636 “will avoid debilitating cuts in highway and transit investment with predictable, sustainable, and growing revenue from user fees, an effective model that has long enjoyed significant public support.”
However, garnering public favor for the UPDATE Act in a struggling US economy could prove challenging. Opponents point to the already-high total tax rate on gasoline, which, between federal, state, and municipal duties, can range as high as 20% in many regions. Additionally, falling fuel costs in some states have aided many motorists in making commuting and traveling more affordable—gains that could all be erased by the proposed federal tax. Indeed, the motoring American public may be trapped in a no-win situation, conserving energy and fuel costs by driving less and driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, but paying higher taxes at the pump because they are going to the pump less often.
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