BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 1





          Date of Hearing:  April 28, 2015


                   ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONS


                                Susan Bonilla, Chair


          AB 177  
          (Bonilla) - As Amended April 23, 2015


          SUBJECT:  Professions and vocations:  licensing boards:   
          authority:  extension.


          SUMMARY:  Extends the sunset date for the Board for Professional  
          Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (BPELSG), the  
          California Architects Board (CAB), and the Landscape Architects  
          Technical Committee (LATC) until January 1, 2020.  


          EXISTING LAW:


          1)Creates the BPELSG within the Department of Consumer Affairs  
            (DCA) and extends the operation of the BPELSG until January 1,  
            2016. (Business and Professions Code (BPC) Section 6710)


          2)Establishes the Professional Engineers Act, administered by  
            the BPELSG, within the DCA, which licenses and regulates  
            professional engineers.  (BPC Section 6700 et seq.)


          3)Establishes the Land Surveyor's Act, administered by the  
            BPELSG, within the DCA, which licenses and regulates the  
            practice of land surveying.  (BPC Section 8700 et seq.)








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 2







          4)Defines the Professional Engineer's and Land Surveyor's Fund  
            as a single special fund.  (BPC Sections 6797 and 8800)


          5)Establishes the Geologist and Geophysicists Act, administered  
            by the BPELSG, within the DCA, which licenses and regulates  
            professional geologists and geophysicists.  (BPC Section 7800  
            et seq.)


          6)Defines the Geology and Geophysicists Account within the  
            Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Fund.  (BPC Sections  
            7885 and 7886)


          7)Establishes the California Architects Board within the DCA,  
            which licenses and regulates professional architects under the  
            Architects Practice Act.  (BPC Section 5500 et seq.)


          8)Establishes the Landscape Architects Technical Committee,  
            under the CAB, which licenses and regulates landscape  
            architects.  (BPC Section 5615 et seq.)


          THIS BILL:


          9)Extends the sunset date for the BPELSG, CAB, and the LATC from  
            January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2020.
          10)Creates the Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and  
            Geologists Fund by merging the Geology and Geophysics Account  
            with the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Fund.


          11)Gives the BPELSG the authority to discipline a licensee for  
            failure to respond to a written request or information from  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 3





            the BPELSG stemming from complaint investigation.


          12)Clarifies that the written contract requirement for a  
            licensee must contain a provision for both party's ability to  
            terminate and the procedure for termination of a contract.


          13)Gives the BPELSG the ability to develop the education  
            standards for licensure as a geologist, geophysicist, or a  
            geologist-in-training.


          14)Makes other conforming and nonsubstantive changes.


          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown.  This bill is keyed fiscal by the  
          Legislative Counsel. 


          COMMENTS:


          15)Purpose.  This bill is author sponsored.  According to the  
            author, "This bill is necessary to ensure that consumers  
            continue to be protected through the ongoing licensure and  
            regulation of architects, landscape architects, engineers,  
            land surveyors, and geologists." 
          16)Sunset Review.  On March 18th, 2015, the Assembly Business  
            and Professions Committee and the Senate Business,  
            Professions, and Economic Development Committee held a "sunset  
            review" hearing for the BPELSG, the CAB, and the LATC.  As  
            part of the Sunset Review, the BPELSG, the CAB, and the LATC  
            each prepared a sunset report, which was submitted to the  
            Committees and Committee staff prepared a background paper on  
            each board.    


          A "sunset review" is a performance review of a state agency by  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 4





            the Legislature aimed at determining whether that agency  
            should continue to exist, and if so, whether any statutory  
            reforms are needed to increase the agency's effectiveness.   
            Sunset review is triggered by the statutory expiration date  
            for the agency, which is commonly called a "sunset."  Without  
            an extension of this sunset date, the boards will cease to  
            exist. 


          In response to the recommendations in the background paper and  
            the sunset hearing, this bill extends the sunset date for the  
            BPELSG, the CAB, and the LATC from January 1, 2016, to January  
            1, 2020.  This bill also incorporates proposed changes to the  
            function of the BPELSG that arose out of the sunset review  
            process including the merging of the Geology and Geophysics  
            Account with the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors  
            Fund; giving the BPELSG the authority to discipline a licensee  
            for failure to respond to a requires for information relating  
            to a complaint investigation; and providing clarification of  
            the licensure requirements for geologist.


          BPELSG.  The BPELSG is charged with safeguarding the life,  
            health, property, and public welfare by regulating the  
            practices of professional engineering, land surveying,  
            geology, and geophysics.  The BPELSG provides this public  
            service by qualifying and licensing individuals, establishing  
            regulations, enforcing laws and regulations, and providing  
            information so that consumers can make informed decisions. 

            The complexity of engineering, land surveying, geology, and  
            geophysics projects necessitates a very high degree of  
            technical knowledge and skill which is typically only acquired  
            after many years of experience.  The vast majority of licensed  
            engineers hold a college degree in engineering.  Land  
            surveyors make decisions and form opinions based upon  
            interpretation of legal documents, field evidence, and the use  
            of technically advanced instrumentation.  Licensed geologists  
            and geophysicists often obtain post-secondary degrees in earth  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 5





            sciences and devote many years of experience studying and  
            interpreting historical data related to soils, earth dynamics,  
            groundwater, and the effect those have on public improvements.

            Merging the Funds.  During the 4th Extraordinary Session of  
            2009, the Legislature merged the Board for Professional  
            Engineers and Land Surveyors and the Board for Geologists and  
            Geophysicists, ABx4 20 (Strickland, Chapter 18, Statutes of  
            2009).  At the time of the subsequent sunset review in 2012,  
            the recommendation was to keep the funds of each board  
            separate until the functions of the new board integrated.   
            Initially, the Licensing, Enforcement, and Administrative  
            units of the BPELSG had separate personnel for geologists and  
            geophysicists and for engineers and land surveyors.   
            Presently, the activities and staff of these units are  
            combined so each unit has authority to regulate all of the  
            professions under the BPELSG.  Despite the merger of these  
            duties, funds are maintained separately as the Geology and  
            Geophysics Account within the Professional Engineers and Land  
            Surveyors Fund.  By fiscal year 2015-16, the reserve in the  
            Geology and Geophysics account is predicted to reach a level  
            that would require a fee increase. The Professional Engineers  
            and Land Surveyors Fund is predicted to remain solvent.  This  
            division of funds is the last remnant of the merger. This bill  
            would combine the accounts to enable the BPELSG to fully  
            integrate its operations and costs.

            Enforcement Delays.  One major issue raised in the sunset  
            review hearing that interferes with the expeditious processing  
            of a complaint is the lack of authority to require its  
            licensees to respond to the Board or to provide documents  
            related to a project which the Enforcement Unit may request  
            during the course of a complaint investigation.  One of the  
            reasons for delays in the processing of investigations has  
            been that staff gives the subject of the investigation ample  
            time and opportunities to respond and provide documents during  
            the investigation.  However, what typically transpires is that  
            the licensed subjects often think that if they do not respond,  
            the complaint will simply be closed.  While some cases are  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 6





            closed due to lack of substantive information in the  
            complaint, this is unusual.  In most cases, the BPELSG must  
            either proceed based on the information on file or must expend  
            additional time and resources such as referring the case to  
            Division of Investigation with the DCA) to obtain the  
            information.  Often, if the BPELSG had received this  
            information in a timely fashion, the complaint could have been  
            resolved without any further action being pursued against the  
            licensee.  Presently, the State Board of Licensed Contractors  
            and the California Medical Board has authority to pursue  
            disciplinary action against a licensee who fails to respond to  
            a request from an investigator in the course of an enforcement  
            action.  This bill gives the BPELSG the authority to initiate  
            disciplinary action for a licensee that fails to respond to a  
            written request by an investigator in the process of a  
            complaint investigation. 

            Education Requirements for Geologists and Geophysicists.   
            During the sunset review process, the BPELSG identified a  
            concern relating to the licensure requirements for geologists.  
             Under the Geology and Geophysics Act, a bachelor's degree in  
            geology is required, however, the necessary coursework to  
            qualify for licensure within a geology major it unclear.   
            Presently, the narrow definition of the education requirement  
            of having graduated with a degree in geology has created some  
            confusion in applicants looking for licensure.  This results  
            in an applicant being denied a license because upon review of  
            the coursework the applicant has insufficient education in the  
            field.  The BPELSG is examining how to better capture new  
            graduates by clarifying this section of the Geology and  
            Geophysicists Act.  This bill authorizes the BPELSG to  
            formulate the requirements for licensure through regulation. 

            Written Contract Requirement.  Presently, all of the  
            professions regulated have the requirement that a written  
            contract be executed prior to performing professional  
            services.  The language in the BPC provides a loophole that  
            according to the BPELSG has been used by licensees at the  
            potential detriment of consumers.  Currently, the BPC sections  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 7





            require that a contract include description of the procedure  
            to be used by any party to terminate the contract rather than  
            giving both parties the ability to terminate the contract.   
            This provision has resulted in some licensees including only a  
            provision giving the licensee the ability to terminate.  This  
            bill would clarify that the licensee must include language in  
            a written contract about how both parties can terminate the  
            contract.

          CAB and LATC.  The CAB was created in 1901 by the Legislature to  
            fulfill the mission of protecting the health, safety, and  
            welfare of the public through the regulation of the practice  
            of architecture.  The CAB establishes regulations for the  
            examination and licensing of the architecture profession in  
            California, which today numbers approximately 21,000 licensed  
            architects and approximately 11,000 candidates who are in the  
            process of meeting examination and licensure requirements.   
            The mission of the CAB is to protect the public health,  
            safety, and welfare through the regulation of the practice of  
            architecture and landscape architecture in California.  

          California began regulating the practice of landscape  
            architecture in 1953.  The LATC, under the purview of the CAB,  
            was created by the Legislature to protect the health, safety,  
            and welfare of the public by establishing license standards  
            and enforcing the laws and regulations that govern the  
            practice of landscape architecture in California.  The LATC is  
            responsible for the examination, licensure, and enforcement  
            programs concerning landscape architects.  The LATC currently  
            licenses more than 3,500 of the over 16,400 licensed landscape  
            architects in the United States.  The mission of the LATC is  
            to regulate the practice of landscape architecture in a manner  
            which protects the public health, safety, and welfare and  
            safeguards the environment, as specified.  

            In fulfilling their missions, the CAB and the LATC have found  
            that acting preventively and proactively is the best use of  
            its resources.  Because of the nature of the design  
            profession, there are numerous opportunities to prevent minor  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 8





            problems from becoming disasters.  As such, the CAB and the  
            LATC works to aggressively address issues well before they  
            exacerbate into catastrophes.  In the CAB's Enforcement  
            Program, for example, this means cooperatively working with  
            building departments through the CAB's first-of-its-kind  
            Building Official Contact Program.  The CAB and the LATC work  
            closely with professional groups to ensure that licensees  
            understand changes in laws, codes, and standards, and monitor  
            changes in industry and the environment to ensure licensure  
            and regulation reflect current needs.  The CAB and the LATC  
            also invest in communicating with consumers, schools, licensed  
            professionals, and related professions and organizations.   To  
            ensure the effectiveness of these endeavors, the CAB and the  
            LATC works to upgrade and enhance its communications by  
            constantly seeking feedback and analyzing the results of its  
            communications efforts.  
             
            Review of the CAB and LATC Issues.  While the Committees  
            raised a number of issues relating to the CAB and the LATC,  
            none required any statutory changes.  As a result, the only  
            change necessary was the extension of the CAB and the LATC  
            until January 1, 2020.  The following are some of issues  
            pertaining to the CAB and LATC reviewed and discussed by the  
            Committees during the review of the Bureau, along with  
            background information concerning each particular issue.   
            Recommendations were made by Committee staff regarding the  
            particular issues or problem areas which needed to be  
            addressed.

            Issue:   Travel Restrictions.  Several boards have reported  
            difficulty receiving approval on in-state and out-of-state  
            travel.  Like many other professional licensing boards, the  
            CAB relies upon a national examination, the Architect  
            Registration Examination (ARE), which is developed,  
            administered, and scored by National Council of Architectural  
            Registration Boards (NCARB), and NCARB's intern development  
            program in lieu of its own.  Additionally, the CAB relies upon  
            NCARB's Certificate when granting reciprocity for out-of-state  
            licensees.  The CAB's involvement in NCARB efforts, like the  








                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 9





            practice analysis, helps ensure that NCARB projects, programs,  
            and policies reflect California's needs.  In addition, LATC  
            relies upon a national examination, the Landscape Architect  
            Registration Examination, which is developed, administered,  
            and scored by the Council of Landscape Architectural  
            Registration Boards (CLARB).  As such, the CAB's and LATC's  
            participation is critical to ensure California's interests are  
            expressed and that the boards are given consideration in  
            decisions that affect California stakeholders.  While the cost  
            of a Board Member traveling to an out-of-state meeting is a  
            fraction of a percent of the board's budget, attendance can  
            yield exponential benefits that can save significant  
            resources.  The CAB and the LATC have both noted difficult  
            receiving travel request approvals, however, have reported  
            recent successes in obtaining approvals.    
          
            Recommendation:  The Committees should encourage the CAB and  
            the LATC to pursue opportunities at which its Members and  
            Officers can interact directly with their national peers, and  
            provide a strong voice for California's unique perspective and  
            needs.  The CAB and the LATC should inform the Committees of  
            whether it continues to face travel restrictions that prohibit  
            it from attending meetings where its representation could  
            significantly impact California's ability to ensure that  
            national examinations or standards reflect California's needs  
            and protect California licensees, candidates for licensure,  
            and consumers.  
            
            Issue: BreEZe Implementation. The CAB and the LATC was  
            scheduled for Release Three, and with the cancellation of the  
            BreEZe contract, it is unclear when the boards will undergo  
            technology upgrades that aim to increase efficiencies for  
            licensees and Board staff.  A recent audit report conducted by  
            the California State Auditor, California Department of  
            Consumer Affairs' BreEZe System, found that "the future  
            implementation of BreEZe is uncertain at best and, as it  
            relates to the regulatory entities originally included in the  
            final release [Release Three], likely unfeasible."  









                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 10





            Recommendation: The CAB and the LATC should inform the  
            Committees of any difficulties it foresees as a result of  
            having to remain on its legacy system, and whether any  
            additional stop-gap technological measures are needed until  
            BreEZe is implemented.  The CAB and the LATC should inform the  
            Committees of how costs related to BreEZe will impact its fund  
            condition.

          17)Current Related Legislation.  


          AB 320 (Wood) of the current legislative session, adds the title  
            "environmental engineer" to the list of professional engineers  
            currently given Title Act protection and prevents a person  
            from using that title unless licensed by the Board for  
            Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists  
            (BPELSG).  This bill also exempts licensed civil, electrical,  
            and mechanical engineers from additional qualifications to use  
            the title, "environmental engineer."


          REGISTERED SUPPORT:  


          California Council of the American Society of Landscape  
          Architects


          American Council of Engineering Companies




          REGISTERED OPPOSITION:  
          None on file. 












                                                                     AB 177


                                                                     Page 11





          Analysis Prepared by:Eunie Linden / B. & P. / (916) 319-3301,   
          Christian Jagusch / B. & P. / (916) 319-3301