California to Vote on Private A/Es in Public Sector
With the November presidential elections comes an unusual opportunity for California design professionals to impact their own profession at the ballot box.
In a referendum, voters will decide whether state and local agencies may utilize the services of engineers and architects in private practice.
The issue has simmered for years, as the union that represents state-employed engineers has sought to require that design services for state and local agencies be performed only by members of the union. In 1997, the California Supreme Court interpreted the state civil service law as calling for engineers represented by the union to be utilized if state employees are able to perform a service, in preference to contracting out design services to firms in the private sector.
That decision emboldened the union to place on the ballot in 1998, an initiative that would have virtually eliminated private design firms from providing professional services for state and local projects. The design community mounted a vigorous effort to defeat the measure, which was rejected by 60 percent of the voters.
The Supreme Court ruling still stands, however, and design professional groups have mounted a new initiative to give state and local agencies the right to award design and related contracts to private architecture and engineering firms. Approval of the initiative would amend the state constitution to provide that authority.
By MILTON F. LUNCH
Milton F. Lunch was general counsel for the National Society of Professional Engineers.