This past November, Thursday the 21st, was the annual Lobby Day for the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). Held in conjunction with the semi-annual meetings of NSPS’s Board of Governors and Board of Directors, this is an opportunity for representatives of the surveying community to meet with their state’s members of Congress and their staff to discuss a range of issues facing the profession.
This was my first opportunity to attend because, during my career as a federal employee at the National Geodetic Survey, this cross-pollination would have been considered highly inappropriate. So, I was excited to see just how the process works and what the results of these discussions might be.
NSPS’s government affairs consulting firm, John M. Palatiello and Associates, did an excellent job providing a pair of webinars prior to the meetings to assist those attending in the mechanism of setting up meetings with their representatives and show them how to conduct their interviews. In addition, they provided a set of talking points on four specific issues that NSPS has identified as important to the surveying community. These included:
- a Federal Trade Commission proposal on the regulation of geolocation and unmanned aerial systems,
- locating pipelines, railroads, and underground infrastructure,
- House bill H.R. 1604, “Map It Once, Use It Many Times,” and
- the Davis-Bacon Act.
As an observer, I took immense satisfaction that Americans have admittance to virtually the highest levels of our governmental process. Whether we like the outcomes of our arguments or not, we should be proud of the simple fact that we have relatively easy access to the staff offices of our Congressional representatives.
So, what did we see? We chose to follow a couple of groups representing the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. The morning included visits to offices of members of the Senate, while the afternoon moved to visiting members of the House.
In each case the NSPS members did an excellent job describing the organization and the capacity in which they represent the surveying constituency in their state as well as the impact that each of the issues in the talking points would have on their members and the country. The group that we followed met with legislative assistants and policy advisors. A few other groups met their congressperson or senator.
If there was a single take-away for me, it came not from the discussion of the talking points but rather from a question posed to the legislators in each of the meetings we attended. “Do you know what a land surveyor does?” Regrettably, but not unexpectedly, most gave only the most vague responses. Regardless of the importance of our messages, I suspect that if they don’t really know who we are and what we do, they won’t give these issues the consideration we would like to see.
NSPS is working hard to increase the visibility of the profession, but it is up to all of us to be in touch with our state and national representatives to let them know how these and other legislative issues might impact us; to express our ideas, both pro and con concerning the activities of state and federal surveying and mapping programs; and to convey the importance of the surveying profession to our communities and the nation.