September 2020 – Region 9 Reports
REGION 9 REPORTS – SEPTEMBER 2020 NEWSLETTER
Government Relations Committee Update ASCE Region 9
by Kenneth H. Rosenfield, P.E., F.ASCE
Chair, ASCE Region 9 Government Relations Committee
The Government Relations Committee (GRC) of Region 9 exists to monitor State legislative activity emanating from Sacramento with an interest in evaluating and acting upon legislation that will impact our profession, infrastructure, regulatory controls, and other State initiatives. The GRC is also actively engaged in the annual ASCE advocacy day in Sacramento.
The legislative year begins each January and this year started true to typical form in that many legislative bills of interest were initiated. These bills ranged from efforts to enhance building seismic preparation requirements, setting up some additional infrastructure funding through bonds, and clarification of the definition of surveying, among many others. The GRC held monthly teleconference meetings with interested committee members and reviewed and monitored legislation in January, February, and March, recommending positions on legislation for Board approval. During this time, however, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the State and the legislature adjourned without taking action on any but a few emergency legislative bills. While both houses of the Legislature held routine hearings early in March, it became apparent by the third week of that month that business, as usual, was no longer “business as usual.” As of March 20th, both houses recognized that pursuant to the Governor’s March 4th proclamation of a state-wide emergency related to Covid-19, and his subsequent orders to prohibit large public meetings, there was an urgent need to approve, and the Legislature passed, an emergency $1.1 billion spending authorization for Covid-19 response. The legislature then recessed their sessions.
By mid-May, with the June 15th State constitutional requirement to pass a budget in mind, the Assembly briefly returned to sessions to hold budget hearings. In large part, this was in response to the Governor’s “May budget revision” that called for significant cuts to state spending based upon projections of major reductions in state revenue, exacerbated by the decision to delay most April 15th tax payments until July. The Senate also returned to sessions and both legislative houses eventually passed a perfunctory budget by the deadline that was “balanced” upon a number of assumptions of Federal support and drawdowns of the State’s reserve funds. Later in June, the Assembly passed a handful of budget cleanups and headed back home until the middle of July, the Senate soon followed suit. The legislative houses returned to sessions in Sacramento as of July 27th. No significant legislation on infrastructure or civil engineering is expected to move forward by the legislative deadline of August 31st. The Governor has until September 30th to approve or veto legislation. The GRC, comprising about a dozen active members, continued to meet monthly and have diligently volunteered their time to assist the process of legislation review. I thank them for their commitments and efforts.
Our signature advocacy event is our Sacramento fly-in, our advocacy day. This is typically held during the second week of May. The committee is responsible for coordinating the annual Region 9 Legislative Fly-In and the follow up local visits, which are intended to encourage an ongoing dialogue between ASCE members and their legislators on issues of importance to ASCE. This year, following a year in the planning and coordination, we were scheduled to have a joint advocacy day with members of ACEC and members of APWA. This collaborative effort was conceived and planned to break down barriers between our groups and to strengthen the impact engineers would have when calling upon their elected officials to make infrastructure funding and other issues a priority. ACEC was kind enough to spend significant staff time to set up the event for the benefit of all. Unfortunately, this event had to be canceled due to Covid-19. We will seek to set up this important event again as soon as it is safe to do so and will also plan to open it up to participation by other like-minded professional organizations.
In the meantime, in the short term, as face to face visits are not recommended for health reasons, it is important for all of us to become virtual advocates for our profession and infrastructure. I recommend that you maintain contact with your elected officials through their websites and any virtual town halls they may hold. And, very importantly, I recommend you become a key contact of ASCE. This helps the Society to advocate at the Federal level and it is simple to do. Volunteer to become a Key Contact at https://www.asce.org/keycontacts/
The ASCE Region 9 Government Relations Committee actively monitors and recommends positions on statewide legislative and regulatory proposals that affect civil engineers and support the standing policies of ASCE. If you would like to learn more about the activities of the Region 9 Government Relations Committee or join this committee, please contact me at KRosenfield@lagunahillsca.gov.
Outgoing Region Governor’s Perspective
by Yazdan T. Emrani, P.E., M.ASCE
ASCE Region 9 Governor from the Los Angeles Section
This will be my last official communique as the outgoing Region 9 Governor from the Los Angeles Section. It has been an honor and privilege serving members of ASCE Region 9 and especially the Los Angeles Section, and all I can say is wow, how time flies!
Region 9 has a very strong Board consisting of Governors representing the four sections of Region 9, which include Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, as well as two At-Large Governors and a Director. Additionally, serving on the Board are the presidents of the four sections and chairs of the various Region 9 committees that provide invaluable updates and input.
I was fortunate to have served in various roles during my tenure on the Region 9 Board including serving as the Vice Chair of the board last year. Additionally, my role has included serving as the Chair of the Infrastructure Policy Committee (IPC). I have also served as the Chair of the Nominating Committee, where I am happy to report that we were able to nominate a very good candidate, Tapas Dutta, who was recently voted in by the membership, and whom will be replacing me as the incoming Los Angeles Section Governor, starting on October 1, 2020. I wish Tapas the best and am confident that he will do a great job.
In reflecting on my ASCE service, although I had been involved with ASCE since college, this involvement became much more pronounced after I moved from Texas to California over 20 years ago. I found my local Orange County Branch to be a vibrant and active community and decided to transition into a much more active role; first through my involvement with the Orange County Infrastructure Report Card and then joining the Orange County Branch Board and eventually becoming the President of the Branch in 2007.
My first involvement with Region 9, however, came in January 2006, when I was asked by the great Carl Blum, the first Director of the newly formed Region 9 Board, to take on the role of Co-Chair for a first ever state-wide infrastructure report card. This was a daunting task and something that had never been done before in California. There had been a handful of other statewide report cards done at that time, but California is unique and we wanted to make sure that our final product is comprehensive, accurate and can withstand any arrows that are thrown at it. To add to the pressure, earlier, in May of that year, California lawmakers approved a series of bills that would place a record $42 billion public works spending plan before voters in November. Our goal was to educate the voters on the condition of the infrastructure in California in a credible, comprehensive, and defendable manner, so they could have all the facts at their disposal to help with their voting decision.
I appreciated the confidence placed in me by Carl, and together with my other Co-Chair, Mike Kincaid, was able to put together a great team of almost 100 volunteers to get this done and release the first ever California Infrastructure Report Card (CAIRC) in September 2006. The report card generated a lot of publicity on the condition of the infrastructure in our state, especially since the grades were not what people expected. The report card release was a great experience but it was made much sweeter a few weeks later, when California voters approved the infrastructure bond package.
My involvement with Region 9 continued as the Co-Chair of the Infrastructure Report Card Committee and in 2012 Mike Kincaid and I were able to bring a lot of the veterans of the original CAIRC back plus we added new volunteers to update the 2006 CAIRC. The 2012 update of the CAIRC was released in September 2012, almost six years to the date of the original report card. I continued my service on the Region 9 Board as the President of the Los Angeles Section in 2014 and eventually was elected to my current position in 2017.
Speaking of the Region 9 Board, we have accomplished a lot over the last three years. These have included releasing the 2019 California Infrastructure Report Card, which was an update to the 2012 CAIRC, thanks to the efforts of John Hogan and Tony Akel, and their great team of volunteers. We hosted the annual Legislative Day events at the Capitol Mall in Sacramento. The Region Board also continued holding its annual main event, the California Infrastructure Symposium & Region 9 Awards Dinner, each year, partnering with the local Sections including San Francisco in 2018, and San Diego in 2019. Our 2020 event was scheduled to be held in Sacramento earlier this year, however, it had to be postponed unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. But fear not; where there is a will, there is a way, and as engineers we always find a solution to any challenge. In this case, we will be holding a virtual symposium on September 25, 2020. The 2020 Symposium Chair, Mike Konieczki and the entire Symposium Committee have done a great job putting together an excellent program. This year’s symposium is packed with great speakers from across the state and promises to be a very informative program that you can participate in, from the comfort of your own office or home!
Region 9 has also continued to advocate for infrastructure related bills that are of interest and value to our membership and to that end the Government Relations Committee has continued to do a great job leading this charge. I would like to thank Richard Markuson of Pacific Advocacy Group, the Region Board’s legislative advocate. Richard has done a great job in his legislative liaison work, outreach, and reports. One of the great benefits of serving on the Region 9 Board is that you get to meet a lot of different ASCE members from across the state. I have especially enjoyed meeting a lot of students and YMF members over these past few years and I am very excited to see the continued level of enthusiasm and involvement across Region 9.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity and thank my fellow Governors and Board members for their dedicated service, friendship and comradery. There are couple of folks that I would like to specifically thank; first being Kwame Agyare, our outgoing Director, for his leadership, especially in the active role he took on the ASCE National Board of Direction policies and initiatives. Next would be Anne Ettley, our Region 9 coordinator extraordinaire! She has been great at making sure we are all on task with all things Region 9 and to top it off, she has spoiled us with her fantastic cupcake baking skills! Last but not least, I would like to welcome our incoming Director, Kenneth Rosenfield who will be taking office on October 1st. I have no doubts that Ken will do a great job and will continue the tradition of excellent leadership for Region 9.
In closing, although my role as Region 9 Governor is ending, my involvement will not. I am looking forward to continuing my service to Region 9 as the Chair of the IPC and to help promote Region 9’s message on policy issues especially in support of the need for continued infrastructure investment. If you would like to help or volunteer with any of our efforts, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.