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Tampa lawmaker wants change to engineering licenses following Surfside tragedy

Posted at 10:41 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 23:19:04-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Some of the state’s top structural engineers are calling for changes within Florida’s building certification process following the tragedy in Surfside.

In Florida, any professional engineer, including a civil engineer, can approve a design or inspection to ensure it is safe.

“We, as a profession, want to take whatever steps we can to do what we can to avoid this in the future,” said Tom Grogan, a retired engineer and former president of the Florida Structural Engineers Association.

Rep. Jackie Toledo, of Tampa, sponsored a bill in the 2021 session that would have called for separate licenses for civil and structural engineers.

It would have required structural engineers to pass a specific test before given the ability to approve building plans.

Toledo is the only professional engineer in the Florida legislature.

“When you’re dealing with life, safety, and welfare, we need to be as safe as possible and have our structural engineers be the only ones that can sign and seal documents,” said Toledo.

The legislation died in committee with many of Toledo’s republican colleagues blocking the bill, opposing additional regulation.

“Same cost. We’re not making any more money as a state, we’re not raising fees,” said Toledo. “And I think that was the disconnect. I think that because of this tragedy, we’ll see some progress in that bill.”

Toledo plans to file a similar bill in the 2022 legislative session. She said she has already started lobbying key lawmakers following the condo collapse in Surfside.

“Someone needs to be held accountable,” said Toledo. “But moving forward, how we prevent these sort of tragedies from happening, I think one of the things we could do is making sure that our structural engineers have a separate designation.”