Government Goings-on: To Kill a Board

— Alan Dulaney

Note: Since this article was published, geologists have been removed from the bill. Read an update as of March 4, 2016, here.

alDulaneyA movement is apparently growing to remove licensure from state governments and replace such boards with private entities. Last year, legislatures in six states attempted to wipe out all licensing and registration bodies embedded in state government, including engineers and attorneys, but they failed. This year it is Arizona’s turn. Having learned the lesson that too broad an approach won’t work, the Arizona House is moving a bill that eliminates only a few state-licensed professions — and geology is included. HB 2613 would replace the term Registered Geologist with Professional Geologist, and remove geologists from the authority of the Board of Technical Registration. The designation of Registered Geologist would disappear.

Over 30 states provide technical registration for geologists. Under the Board of Technical Registration for many decades now, the public has a clear process for redress of grievances should a geologist (like an engineer or landscape architect) not provide services in a competent and conscientious manner. HB 2316 strips away this protection.

Registered Geologists are needed to sign off on geological reports as part of compliance with various municipal, state and even federal requirements. How sad it would be if Arizona had to import Registered Geologists from California to sign off on reports because the Legislature shortsightedly eliminated Arizona’s own well-established registration program. And make no mistake: If they can eliminate geologists, engineers will be next. This effort is ideologically driven, comes straight from the Governor’s Office, and will not stop until the Board of Technical Registration ceases to exist.

Registered Geologists and Professional Engineers are the principals and main staff of many Arizona consulting firms. Reciprocity with other states, which goes along with a state registration program, gives Arizona firms a competitive edge in seeking projects elsewhere, and that money flows back to the state. The unintended impact of HB 2613 could be to cause many consulting firms that specialize in hydrogeology to lose work, shed employees, and perhaps relocate or permanently close their doors. The loss of consulting firms would mean the loss of highly educated staff, lowering Arizona’s economic standing as comparatively well-paid geologists relocated. Potentially the loss of the Registered Geologist category could threaten the careers of many AHS members. And would young professionals look upon Arizona as a good place to practice their profession once registration disappears?

Arizona’s leadership position in water management, a matter of pride to the Governor, stems in large measure from the high quality of our technical support as hydrologists, hydrogeologists, and engineers. To risk even partial erosion of this cutting-edge knowledge base is to risk continued successful water management in a time of increasing stress. That in turn threatens continued economic growth. Arizona can’t afford that risk.

HB 2316 has already passed through the Commerce and Rules Committees. Next, it goes to the House floor, then third reading, then on to the Senate. It must be passed by a ¾ majority of both houses, but if it makes it to the Governor’s desk, he will sign it. There are many other bills this session, but HB 2316 directly impacts AHS, and must be opposed.

What Can You Do?

Numbers count. There is not much time left to stop this. Go to the Arizona State Legislature web site, find out who your state Representatives and Senators are, and click Send Email next to their names. Oppose HB 2316. Tell them to leave the Board of Technical Registration untouched. Registered Geologists are needed in Arizona. There are many antiquated specialties that can be eliminated from statute without harming Arizona — but geology is not one of them.

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