Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 17
02/07/2005 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 123-OCCUPATIONS: FEES & EXTENSION OF BOARDS CHAIR ANDERSON announced that the first order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 123, "an Act relating to occupational licensing fees and receipts; extending the termination dates of the Boards of Barbers and Hairdressers, Social Work Examiners, Pharmacy, Professional Counselors, Psychologist and Psychological Associate Examiners, and Veterinary Examiners; relating to an exemption that allows one bill to continue more than one board, commission, or agency program; and providing for an effective date." CHAIR ANDERSON started off by announcing that there was an amendment for this bill, and that he would get to it after the public testimony. 3:26:12 PM RICK URION, Director, Division of Occupational Licensing, Department of Commerce, Community, and Economics, gave his support for the bill, and noted that the sections of the bill that warranted his strongest support are the extensions. He then announced that he is here today to explain and clarify the first four sections of the bill, which will explain the fines and penalties of the bill. MR. URION explained that the law required that the aggregate cost for regulating the profession itself divided by the number of licensees, becomes the licensing fee. Included in this fee, were the fines and penalties that were generated from disciplinary action. He then said that that the professions pays the cost of any disciplinary action and thus it seems only fair that the profession would receive any rewards from monies gained from these actions. CHAIR ANDERSON interjected, and referring to the amendment suggested by Mr. Urion, asked if it is adopted, would the fees and adjustments acquired that do not equate to the operational costs of the professional board be returned in someway or adjusted for accordingly. MR. URION stated that existing law says that the division can charge whatever it costs. This is determined every year, and is adopted into regulation. He then said that there is a required 30-day public notice period before it is enacted. The amendment eliminates this expensive regulation and the 30-day requirement. CHAIR ANDERSON moved that the committee adopt the amendment as suggested by Mr. Urion. He ended by asking if there were any objections to adopting it into the bill. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG commented that they have lumped a lot of bills together here that cover several professional boards and he asked if all the changes made in HB 123 were uniform to all the professional boards mentioned in the bill. 3:30:23 PM MR. URION answered that the changes to fines and penalties to all the licensed professions. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG then asked if these changes are uniformly applied to all boards and commissions. MR. URION asserted that generic language was used and it was applicable to all the licensed professions. CHAIR ANDERSON pointed out that a number of bills regarding professional licensing were introduced. However, Josh Applebee, staff to Representative Anderson, compiled all of these disparate bills into one bill. REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG related his understanding that none of this legislation addressed any of the recommendations from the legislative audits. 3:32:02 PM PAT DAVIDSON, Legislative Auditor, Legislative Audit Division, discussed Sections 5-10, which dealt with extension deadlines. She began by stating that in 2005, 12 boards and commissions will reach sunset status, which amounts to almost half of all boards and commissions. The alignment of these sunsets happened for various reasons. During the course of these audits, the audit division wanted to be more strategic about the date extensions being recommended. For this reason, the division investigated a period of six years. Given the particular circumstances for each board and commission, the division made individual recommendations to spread out the sunset dates. Although it appears as if they are weighted to the year 2010, there is a spectrum of dates spread out evenly. MS. DAVIDSON announced that the division had a few changes for the committee to consider. She mentioned that the division recommended that the board of hairdressers and barbers be able to delegate the practical examination to the training schools and supervisors. This, she said, could be spot checked by the board without any undo costs and would not create a public hazard. With regard to the Board of Pharmacy, she said that they had a concern with the actual licensing fee increases. For the Board of Psychologists and Psychological Associates she said that there were two recommendations. The first was that there needed to be an increase in licensing fees to finance the board's deficit, and second, that the governor make timely appointments to the board. 3:36:50 PM REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG (looking at the unqualified law exempt section of Alaskan Statute 44.66.050 E) asked if Ms. Davidson was familiar with the 1977 legislation (amended in 2002) that basically describes the enactment of a bill that provides for more than one board, commissioner, or agency. He then asked her if she was informed of the history and intent of the statute and the 1977 legislation that created it. MS. DAVIDSON specified that the 1977 legislation was the original legislation and her understanding is that the intention of the bill to have each board and commission be looked at separately and to have individual audits. The whole process is a very involved process and significant use of resources. Though reviewing the boards on an individual basis is the spirit of the law, the legislature faces almost half of the boards right now due to their sunset alignment this year. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked if there is a legal opinion on this interpretation of the statute. JEAN MISCHEL, Attorney, Legislative Legal Counsel, and Research Services, Legislative Affairs Agency, agreed with Ms. Davidson's interpretation, which was generally the way the law is understood. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG related his understanding of the boards being discussed in HB 123, there are, save one, no substantive recommendation from the audits to make any additions or corrections to the statute. MS. DAVIDSON answered that the only substantive change would be whether the legislature decides to merge two of the professional boards into one. 3:40:13 PM REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG, asked if the committee would be remiss in its legislative oversight if it were to pass this bill and lump all of these boards under one statute that addresses all sunset extensions. MS. DAVIDSON stated that it was up to the pleasure of the committee. CHAIR ANDERSON mentioned that he believed that he was saving the legislature money and time with HB 123. He then directed a question to Ms. Mischel if section 13, which adds the new section exempting from the prohibition to combine legislation concerning regulatory boards and commissions, is legal and conforming. MS. MISCHEL answered by stating that Chair Anderson, being a later legislator could, in fact, modify the implementation of a previously legislated statute, which is what you are doing here. CHAIR ANDERSON then asked if it were valid when, as the committee goes from one board to another, and by section within each board, the changes that are being considered will simply be attached to the relevant sections of the professional boards governing statute. By doing so, he said, there is no change to the construct of the bill. He commented that additions and deletions will not affect the extension of the board regardless. MS. MISCHEL indicated that she is not one hundred percent sure what the Chair was getting at and then offered her interpretation. She stated that if you change the dates on the board extension pursuant to the recommendation, and then asked the chair if he meant, given this, would he be in compliance. CHAIR ANDERSON stated that if we are in the spirit of the law- within section 13 of the past legislation, the committee is not obligated to just extend dates, and that if a committee desires to change the fee structure, it can do this in this legislation. MS. MISCHEL confirmed that legislative oversight does exist within the present legislature. 3:43:58 PM REPRESENTATIVE GUTTENBERG asked if the single subject rule would be violated if a committee wanted to create a substantive amendment for one of the boards. MS. MICHELE answered that such a situation would not violate the single subject rule. She noted that there is a broad line of cases that define the single subject rule quite well. However a change that described here like this would require a title change because the title does not encompass licensing standards. 3:45:16 PM MS. MICHELE said that the title does not encompass licensing standards, but that it extends the termination dates of the board and refers to licensing fees. CHAIR ANDERSON announced that the bill as amended is before the committee. He indicated that he was a little hesitant, since he did not want to see the different aspects offered now, without having the various boards present to hear the suggestions. He indicated that he only wanted to address the extension aspect of the bill, not any fee increases. MS. DAVIDSON interjected that these fee increases are not statutory changes, but instead they are merely suggestions. The responsibility of the fee increases lays with the Division of Occupational Licensing. She pointed out that the only statutory changes were to allow the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers the ability to delegate the supervision of the state practical licensing exam to the actual schools and training facilities, and to merge the Board of Marital and Family Counseling and the Board of Professional Counseling into one board. 3:47:18 PM CHAIR ANDERSON reminded the committee that the Amendment 1 which was adopted does state that the division itself can make statutory changes to the fee structure accordingly. He then offered the addition of Amendment 2 which provided for a date change for the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers which would extend the board to the year 2011. Other additions in this conceptual amendment were extensions of the professional boards of social work examiners, pharmacy, professional counseling, pharmacy, and psychological associate examiners, to 2010, and veterinary examiners to 2009. This is all per recommendation by Ms. Davidson. He announced that Conceptual Amendment 2. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked if the amendments being adopted would affect fee collection, and would the division have the ability to collect fees over a number of years as it can now. 3:50:49 PM MS. DAVIDSON clarified that although the Division of Legislative Audit recommends fee increases based on its analysis, the Division of Occupational Licensing actually calculates the license fees. She indicated that the one thing that would throw off any board's estimated fee schedule would be licensing investigations because they are time intensive and they are expensive. She then stated that that the Division of Legislative Audit had the view that no provision in law allows the recoupement period to be extended into the future. However, the Division of Occupational Licensing has extended it out to four years to recoup fees over time. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG supposed that, in the past, a board that uses its own money to perform an investigation and a subsequent fine is imposed, yet the money garnished by the board from the individual or group is placed into the state general fund, even though the regulatory board spent their own money to conduct the investigation. He then stated that HB 123 corrected this problem. MR. URION related an example of a very expensive investigation of a real estate agent which resulted a fine of $ 25,000. However, the cost to get this fine allocated did exceed this amount. Amendment 1 addressed the aforementioned problem. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG highlighted that each board is self- supporting, but the misconduct of one within a group can result in the other people in the profession having to pay for it as a group. They get in other words, a double penalty, since they have to come up with the cash to prosecute and then, when this is done, they get none of the benefits of the monies gathered by the administration of the fine. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD asked if there is any opposition to the merger of the Board of Professional Counselors, and the Board of Marital and Family Counseling. 3:56:21 PM CHAIR ANDERSON indicated that there was opposition to the proposed merger, and that he wanted to wait on that question until they had heard from some people in the public that were testifying on behalf of these groups. ANNE HENRY, Co-Secretary/Counselor, American Counselors Association of Alaska, related that the Licensed Professional Counselors Board oppose the merger for many reasons. The merger, she said, would increase the fees because it would increase the number of meetings. She noted that she discussed this merger with the American Association of State Counseling Boards who said that in states that this has happened, the result has been problematic due to more meetings, and a rise in turf issues. REPRESENTATIVE CRAWFORD announced that he is concerned with adding more than a sunset clause in the legislation. He then expressed the need for more committee discussion. CHAIR ANDERSON indicated that for the record, the legislature is not merging the boards and that the committee has not adopted an amendment to do so. This bill is particularly focused on sunset clauses that affect various professional boards. He ended by stating that the opposition is safe and there will be no further talk of merger. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX confirmed this by asking again whether the committee would definitely not be doing anything with the board of family and marital therapy. CHAIR ANDERSON announced that this was again correct. He went on to say that it was only a recommendation from Legislative Audit that this bill could be the appropriate vehicle for administering the merger of the two boards. 4:00:02 PM DIANA STRAUB, Hairdresser, Member of the Board of Barbers and Hairdressers, stated that the board is a hard working board, as evidenced by how they dealt with the licensing of tattoo and piercing facilities that took place a couple of years ago. She expressed her desire for the board to continue in the same manner it has in the past. CHAIR ANDERSON, upon determining that no one else wished to testify, closed public testimony and said that he would entertain a motion from the members at this point. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG interjected his belief that the legislature as illustrated by this present legislation, has the ability to exempt itself from its oversight abilities. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked if the merger ideas were slated to be revisited on another bill platform before this committee. MS. DAVIDSON stated that these boards are under sunset this year, and will go through this year and will end by next year. She then said that it will then be eliminated. CHAIR ANDERSON surmised that it would be next year or the one after that when legislation will be introduced to deal with it. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX pontificated that her understanding still was that it was going to be sunsetted next year, according to what was being said. She then said that if the committee does not do anything, the board gets sunsetted. MS. DAVIDSON informed the committee that there are only two groups, the Board of Marital and Family Therapy and the Board of Dental Examiners, that are not being covered by this legislation. She specified that between HB 123 and other bills, all the boards and commissions under sunset this year are covered. The committee took an at-ease from 4:04:11 to 4:04:48. 4:04:49 PM CHAIR ANDERSON informed the committee that the Board of Marital and Family Counseling and the Dental Examiner Board is being dealt with in other bills. He then requested for a motion to move the bill out of the committee. REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX moved to report HB 123, as amended, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, CSHB 123(L&C) is so moved from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.