Understanding HB 476:
The Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act
For many years, ACEC Georgia worked collaboratively with the engineering organizations that make up the Georgia Engineering Alliance to solve the chronic customer service complaints and enforcement issues that plagued the Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Licensing (PELS) Board for decades. These issues jeopardized public safety and hampered employee recruiting, retention, and career advancement. After exhausting every other option, House Bill 476 – The Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors Act – was introduced to create an independent PELS Board. Signed into law by Governor Kemp on May 9, 2022, this bill was the culmination of years of cooperative effort by ACEC Georgia in working with the General Assembly and the offices of the Governor and Secretary of State. HB 476 removed the PELS Board from under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State’s office, and with that, granted it autonomy to have its own dedicated staff to serve the licensed engineers and land surveyors of Georgia.
HB 476 PROVISIONS
HB 476 made the following notable changes:
- License renewals will now be conducted on an annual, rather than biannual basis.
- For engineers, 15 PDHs will be required for renewal every year, rather than the previous 30 hours every two years.
- For surveyors, 7.5 PDHs will be required for renewal every year, rather than the previous 15 hours every two years.
- The PELS Board is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Professional Licensing Board Division (PLBD) of the Secretary of State’s office and will operate as an independent entity and budget unit. In the past, the PELS Board suffered under the “shared resources” system of the PLBD, in which four staff members were charged with overseeing six unrelated licensing Boards with more than 58,000 licensees. The severe customer service and enforcement issues inherent in this underfunded and understaffed model were the impetus for the move to independence.
- HB 476 allows the Board to operate autonomously with the authority to hire its own dedicated staff, including an executive director, investigators, and customer service representatives.
- While HB 476 made the PELS Board an independent agency, it did not provide any funding for the PELS Board’s operations in the current fiscal year (July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023). Funding will occur in the 2023 legislative session for the next fiscal year (July 1, 2023 – June 30, 2024).
- HB 476 creates a nexus between licensing fee revenue and the annual appropriations to fund the Board’s operations. The PELS Board will now be directly appropriated the majority of the licensing fees, fines, and other revenue sources collected by the Board to fund its operations. In the past, the PELS Board was not directly allocated any funding.
- HB 476 allows the PELS Board to change the fee and fine structure and rates as needed to generate funds for the Board’s operations.
NEW FEE STRUCTURE
On August 11, 2022, the PELS Board voted to increase the fees on professionals and firms licensed by the Board in order to generate the revenue necessary to fund the newly independent Board’s operations. The new fees are as follows:
- Renewal fees for LS, PE, & SE licenses - $ 100.00 annually
- Application fees for LS, PE, & SE - $ 100.00
- Comity license fees for LS, PE, & SE - $ 100.00
- Certificate of Authorization fees for Engineering Firms and Land Surveyor Firms - $ 100.00 annually
TIMELINE FOR A FULLY OPERATIONAL, INDEPENDENT PELS BOARD
The PELS Board’s budget is subject to the annual appropriations and budget processes that all state funded entities are required to follow to receive state dollars. The General Assembly is constitutionally tasked with passing a budget during the regular legislative session at the beginning of each year, which the Governor then signs before fiscal year end on June 30th. These legislative sessions begin the second week of January and usually run until late March or early April, and the budget of any state entity can only be approved within this timeframe.
As such, the timeline for a fully funded PELS Board is July 1, 2023. Once the Board is allocated the funding, it is then able to begin to hire staff, secure office space, purchase computers and software and all of the other things necessary for the Board’s operations.
ACEC Georgia will continue to be a resource to the PELS Board in this process and will continue to update its members on its progress.
If you have any questions about the new PELS Board, please feel free to reach out to ACEC Georgia Director of Government Affairs, Christy Tarallo, email@example.com.