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November 2017 Legislative Update

Monday, November 20, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Tim Quinn
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On January 10, 2018, the Maryland General Assembly convenes the 2018 legislative session. Throughout the session the Maryland Society of Surveyors Government Affairs Committee and lobbyist Bill Kress will be monitoring proposed legislation to identify bills that affect the land surveying profession. The Government Affairs Committee is preparing legislation for the 2018 legislative session to address the location and reporting the position of features (mapping) by non-licensed individuals.

 

 

 

Here is some background on how mapping became an issue.   

 

A 2015 opinion rendered in a case in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania captured the attention of land surveying licensing boards and land surveyors throughout the country. The Pennsylvania case, Southeastern Reprographics, Inc., now known as Davey Resource Group, v. Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, The State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists, involved an appeal that resulted in the reversal of a decision by the licensing board that Southeastern Reprographics, Inc., was engaged in “practicing and offering to practice land surveying while not being properly licensed, and for representing itself without employing a licensed directing head or responsible charge credentialed as professional land surveyor.” 

 

Davey Resource Group (DRG) was contracted by a rural utility distribution company to locate the company’s inventory of service facilities utilizing GPS technology and to create GIS maps depicting the geographic location of those facilities. The Pennsylvania Board concluded that the work performed by DRG constituted an “engineering land survey” as defined by statute. DRG contended that the field inventory and mapping performed was not related to the establishment of a property or boundary lines and therefore was not an engineering land survey. The Commonwealth Court opined that the Pennsylvania Board erred in its judgement and reversed the Board’s decision against DRG.

 

So how does the Pennsylvania case affect land surveyors in Maryland and the Maryland Board for Professional Land Surveyors? Section 15-101 of the Annotated Code of Maryland includes within the definition of the practice of land surveying “measuring, platting, and locating lines, angles, elevations, natural or artificial features in the air, on the surface of the earth, in underground work, and on the beds of bodies of water for the purpose of determining and reporting positions, topography, areas, and volumes”. This is very similar to the definition of an engineering land survey in Pennsylvania’s statute. The court in Pennsylvania stated, “we must construe the overall statutory scheme rather than simply focusing on the referenced isolated language in a vacuum.” In other words, while the locations and GIS mapping DRG performed as well as the equipment and techniques used may fall within the isolated definition of engineering land surveys, the entirety of statutory law regarding the practice of land surveying and engineering must be considered. The purpose of the work product, not the work itself, became the deciding factor in the Pennsylvania case. Clarification to Maryland’s land surveying practice statutes regarding locations and mapping must be clarified before we face a situation similar to what occurred in Pennsylvania.

 

Over the next 6 weeks, MSS will be working closely with the Board for Professional Land Surveyors to construct legislation that clarifies what aspects of mapping must be performed under the direct control and supervision of a licensed land surveyor and what aspects of mapping the non-professional can perform. This issue can be addressed by creating numerous definitions of mapping and mapping products based on the potential use of the mapping product. Perhaps a less cumbersome approach is to establish additional exemptions from our practice act to allow those providing mapping products that do not affect the health, safety or welfare of the public to continue. MSS will insure that our members are kept up to date as our work on this legislation continues.


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