Hello FES Members,
I’m starting my message to you with a question. What’s the difference between laws and rules? As engineering professionals, you may not have thought about this particular question, but certainly, the answer and the implications could have an impact on each of us every day.
In the broadest sense, Laws are the guidelines that dictate social behavior and provide for acceptable conduct within a community. Rules are concrete directions for behaviors that must be followed to avoid punishment or censure, or fines under the Law.
Laws are based on broad principles. Rules are based on narrow technicalities in their application to specific cases and people involved in different situations. At the state level, Laws are established by the Florida Legislature. Rules are developed by agencies to implement the intent of the Law – but must not create new laws and must stay within the authority delegated to the agency by the Law.
This brings me to the Professional Engineers Days in Tallahassee and our FES Interest Groups.
Engineering Facts, Knowledge, and Expertise from our various engineering communities can help our lawmakers determine the rules that impact us. We all know instances of a law or rule that has us shaking our heads and wondering aloud, “How in the world did someone come up with that ill-advised law?”
Odds are the law or rule was developed without input from knowledgeable professionals whose voice matters versus inexperienced staff listening to some lobbyist who happens to get a lawmaker’s ear at the local, State, or Federal level. You see, your voice matters.
Our Engineering Code of Ethics state emphatically that the health, safety, and welfare of the public must be served by our professional conduct. If we do not contribute to law and rulemaking, are we truly performing our ethical obligation? I think that conduct should include the obligation of every engineer to help educate our lawmakers on the items we individually have engineering expertise.
Of course, rare few lawmakers are engineers by trade. They, too, may need gentle reminders from the boots on the ground on how and why certain rules and laws may be good or bad in the communities we serve. That is the nature of being a lawmaker – good information should equal good law outcomes.
That same principle should apply down to our local communities. Think, for example, how much you could contribute to education at a grassroots level if you were involved in a non-engineering committee or group in your community. Or, if engineering students became involved in communities and the lawmaking or rule-making process. The immediate and future results could be substantial.
If you are a member of our FES Water Resources Interest Group, you will have heard Jeff Littlejohn’s weekly updates on pending water quality rule changes which will impact everyone who obtains an Environmental Resource Permit. The proposed changes have been contemplated
for over a decade, and the 2020 Clean Waterways Act (Law) required the Department of Environmental Protection to strengthen the water quality rules. FES and ACEC Florida leadership have been working diligently with DEP to develop rules that set reasonable standards and stay within the authority delegated by the legislature to get where we all want to be – Cleaner Florida Waters.
It is critical the voice of Florida engineers is heard and that the message resonates in Florida’s halls of power. If we don’t get involved, decisions will be made for us and affect the quality of life of people in this great state. A great way to start is by joining us in Tallahassee on March 22nd for PE Legislative Days.
Together, we can provide facts, knowledge, and expertise to help guide legislators to write and pass legislation that will be the best decisions for our growing state. If you have not already done so, log into fleng.org and join a couple of Interest Groups or Committees. No matter what exciting issue will come up next, you can be part of the creative solution.
See you in Tallahassee.
Kelly Cranford, PE, ENV SP, FES Fellow
Culpepper and Terpening, Inc. | Principal Project Manager
(772) 485-1334 – firstname.lastname@example.org