STATE REGISTRATION BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS, LAND SURVEYORS AND GEOLOGISTS
[ 49 PA. CODE CH. 37 ]
Digital Signature and Seal
[50 Pa.B. 4245]
[Saturday, August 22, 2020]
The State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists (Board) proposes to add §§ 37.56a and 37.60 (relating to definitions; and digital signature and seal) and amend §§ 37.57—37.59 (relating to registration number; seal; and use of seal) to read as set forth in Annex A.
This proposed rulemaking would become effective upon publication of the final-form rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Subsection 4(l) of the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law (act) (63 P.S. § 151(l)) authorizes the Board to promulgate regulations, not inconsistent with the act, that it deems necessary and proper to carry into effect the powers conferred by the act.
Background and Need for this Proposed Rulemaking
Subsection 7(a) of the act (63 P.S. § 154(a)) requires each licensee to obtain a seal of a design authorized by the Board and to stamp all work product issued by the licensee with that seal. The Board has promulgated §§ 37.58 and 37.59 to set standards for licensee use of the seal, including the requirement at § 37.59(2) that the licensee also sign the document. However, these regulations were developed when the seal was applied by means of a metal embosser or a rubber stamp; they did not contemplate that a seal or signature could be placed digitally through the personal use of computer technology by placing an image of the seal or signature on a document and did not contemplate that a document could be signed digitally other than by placing an image of the signature on the document. With such technology now available, the National Council of Examiners in Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), the National organization of engineering and land surveying licensing boards, has addressed its use in paragraph H of section 240.20 (relating to seals) of its Model Rules (https://ncees.org/ wp-content/uploads/Model_Rules_2019_web.pdf).
Additionally, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) has been adopted by many states, including the Commonwealth. In the Commonwealth, UETA was enacted as the Electronic Transactions Act (73 P.S. §§ 2260.101—2260.5101). The Board has adopted definitions and provisions consistent with the Electronic Transactions Act for these regulations. Other state agencies must comply with the Electronic Transactions Act under section 303(a) (73 P.S. § 2260.303(a)) in that they may not deny the legal effect or enforceability of a seal solely because it is in electronic form.
This proposed rulemaking will allow licensees to use digital signatures and seals to increase electronic commerce and electronic communications, increase electronic filing of documents, help establish uniformity of rules and standards regarding the authentication and integrity of electronic records and promote public confidence in the integrity and reliability of electronic records. The Board believes that it is appropriate to amend its regulations to make it clear that licensees are permitted to take advantage of this technology and to set standards for its use.
Description of Proposed Amendments
This proposed rulemaking adds § 37.56a to provide definitions for the newly-used terms ''digital seal,'' ''digital signature,'' ''electronic,'' ''sole control'' and ''verification,'' as well as a definition for ''handwritten signature'' so as to differentiate this from digital signature. The definitions of these terms are consistent with the same terms as defined by other northeastern states' professional licensure regulatory bodies, the UETA, the Electronic Transactions Act, the Digital Signature and Electronic Authentication Law and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act. The profession makes a distinction between electronic versus digital signatures. An electronic signature may include scanned images of handwritten signatures or typed notations such as ''/s/ Jane Doe'' without any authentication or encryption system included. Consistent with NCEES Model Rules, the Board proposes digital signatures and seals because the digital approach more properly describes a system applied to an electronic document that uses specific technical processes to provide significant added signer authentication, document authentication, document encryption (if necessary) and efficiency.
This proposed rulemaking amends § 37.57 for clarification that the registrant will be assigned a unique registration number upon their application being approved by the Board, not upon simply applying with the Board. This amendment is necessary in that there may be certain circumstances where an applicant will apply for licensure and be provisionally denied for various reasons. An application must be approved before the registration number is assigned.
This proposed rulemaking amends § 37.58(b) for clarification that the seal must also include a reference to the Commonwealth. The amendment aligns the section with the visual depictions of the seals as provided in § 37.58(a).
Additionally, this proposed rulemaking amends § 37.59 to add ''or digital'' in paragraph (2) to clarify that both facsimile or digital seals must appear on all subsequent pages of the final documents; and add paragraph (7) requiring that a licensee must (i) physically place the seal and handwritten signature in ink, (ii) digitally place the seal and handwrite the signature in ink, or (iii) digitally place the seal and a digital signature.
Finally, this proposed rulemaking adds § 37.60, which provides the heart of the regulation by requiring, as does the Model Rule, that documents signed using a digital signature and seal must have an electronic authentication process attached to or logically associated with the document and that this signature and seal must be unique to the licensee, capable of verification, under the sole control of the licensee, and linked to the document in such a manner that the digital signature and seal are invalidated if any data in the document is changed. Subsection (c) adopts language from the Model Rule 240.20 by requiring that any hard copy printed from the transmitted document file must bear the digital facsimile of the signature and seal and be a confirmation that the electronic file was not altered after the initial signing of the file and that any alterations will cause the signature to be voided.
Fiscal Impact and Paperwork Requirements
Because the use of digital signatures and seals are voluntary rather than mandatory, this proposed rulemaking would not have a fiscal impact on, or create additional paperwork for, the regulated community, the general public, or the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions.
The Board continuously monitors the effectiveness of its regulations. Therefore, no sunset date has been assigned.
Under section 5(a) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P.S. § 745.5(a)), on August 11, 2020, the Board submitted a copy of this proposed rulemaking and a copy of a Regulatory Analysis Form to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) and to the Chairpersons of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee and the House Professional Licensure Committee. A copy of this material is available to the public upon request.
Under section 5(g) of the Regulatory Review Act, IRRC may convey comments, recommendations or objections to the proposed rulemaking within 30 days of the close of the public comment period. The comments, recommendations or objections shall specify the regulatory review criteria which have not been met. The Regulatory Review Act specifies detailed procedures for review, prior to final publication of the rulemaking, by the Board, the General Assembly and the Governor of comments, recommendations or objections raised.
Interested persons are invited to submit written comments, suggestions or objections regarding this proposed rulemaking to the Regulatory Counsel, State Registration Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors and Geologists, by mail at P.O. Box 69523, Harrisburg, PA 17106-5923 or by e-mail at RA-STRegulatoryCounsel@ pa.gov within 30 days following publication of this proposed rulemaking in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Reference No. 16A-4712 (Digital Signature and Seal), when submitting comments.
FRANCIS J. STANTON, Jr., PE,
Fiscal Note: 16A-4712. No fiscal impact; (8) recommends adoption.
TITLE 49. PROFESSIONAL AND VOCATIONAL STANDARDS
PART I. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Subpart A. PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL AFFAIRS
CHAPTER 37. STATE REGISTRATION BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS, LAND SURVEYORS AND GEOLOGISTS
REGISTRATION NUMBER AND SEAL
(Editor's Note: The following section is proposed to be added and printed in regular type to enhance readability.)
§ 37.56a. Definitions.
The following words and terms, when used in this section and §§ 37.59 and 37.60, have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
Digital seal—An electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to seal the document.
Digital signature—An electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document.
Electronic—Relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, optical, electromagnetic or similar capabilities.
Handwritten signature—The scripted name or legal mark of an individual, written by that individual and executed or adopted with the present intention to authenticate a writing in a permanent form.
Sole control—A situation in which only the registrant decides when and where the seal is applied.
Verification—Confirmation that a signature is actually from the registrant whose name and registration number appears on the document.
§ 37.57. Registration number.
Upon [registering with] approval of an application for registration by the Board, each registrant will be assigned a unique registration number.
§ 37.58. Seal.
(a) A registrant shall obtain, at the registrant's own expense, a seal in the design authorized by the Board. The following are Board authorized seals for ''Registered Professional Engineer'' (Design A), ''Registered Professional Land Surveyor'' (Design B), and ''Registered Professional Geologist (Design C):
(b) The seal shall contain the legend ''Registered Professional Engineer,'' ''Registered Professional Land Surveyor,'' or ''Registered Professional Geologist'' and the registrant's name and registration number together with a reference to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
(c) The seal shall be 1 3/4 inch in diameter. The diameter of a pocket seal may be reduced to 1 1/2 inch if the design is in the same relative proportions in subsection (a).
(d) A registrant may use a rubber stamp or computer image which is a facsimile of the seal, if the registrant first obtains a seal in accordance with this section.
§ 37.59. Use of seal.
The following rules govern the proper use of a registrant's seal:
(1) A registrant may use [his] the registrant's seal and signature only when the work being sealed and signed was prepared by the registrant or under the registrant's complete direction and control.
(2) When a registrant issues final or complete documents to a client for the client's records, or when a registrant submits final or complete documents to public or governmental agencies for final review, the seal and signature of the registrant who prepared or who directed and controlled the preparation of the documents, along with the date of issuance, shall be prominently displayed on the first page of all documents. Facsimile or digital seals shall appear on all subsequent pages of plans or plats.
(3) When multiple registrants prepare or direct and control the preparation of documents, each registrant's seal and signature shall appear on the first page of the documents, or on the first page of the identifiable portion or section of the documents, which were prepared or directed and controlled by that registrant, if the respective registrants' direction and control can be reasonably segregated.
(4) When a registrant's signature is applied, it shall be applied near or across the seal, but not in a location that obliterates the registration number.
(5) A registrant may not affix or permit a seal and signature to be applied to a document after the expiration of the registrant's licensure status, or for the purpose of aiding or abetting another person to evade or attempt to evade a provision of the act or this chapter.
(6) In the case of a temporary permit issued to an engineering, land surveying or geology registrant of another state, the registrant shall use the seal of the registrant's home state and shall affix his signature and a copy of the temporary permit to work performed in this Commonwealth.
(7) When a registrant seals and signs engineering, surveying or geology documents, one of the following methods must be used:
(i) Physical placement of a seal and a handwritten signature in permanent ink containing the name of the registrant.
(ii) Digital placement of a seal and a handwritten signature in permanent ink containing the name of the registrant.
(iii) Digital placement of a seal and a digital signature containing the name of the registrant.
(Editor's Note: The following section is proposed to be added and printed in regular type to enhance readability.)
§ 37.60. Digital signature and seal.
(a) Drawings, reports, and documents that are signed using a digital signature must have an electronic authentication process attached to or logically associated with the electronic document. The digital signature must be:
(1) Unique to the registrant.
(2) Capable of verification.
(3) Under the sole control of the registrant.
(4) Linked to a document in such a manner that the digital signature is invalidated if any data in the document is changed.
(b) Drawings, reports, and documents that are sealed with a digital seal must have an electronic authentication process attached to or logically associated with the electronic document. The digital seal must be:
(1) Unique to the licensee.
(2) Capable of verification.
(3) Under the sole control of the licensee.
(4) Linked to a document in such a manner that the digital seal is invalidated if any data in the document is changed.
(c) Any hard copy printed from the transmitted electronic file shall bear the facsimile of the signature and seal and be a confirmation that the electronic file was not altered after the initial digital signing of the file. Any alterations to the file shall cause the signature to be voided.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 20-1142. Filed for public inspection August 21, 2020, 9:00 a.m.]
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