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Alabama Senate committees OKs bill consolidating occupational licensing boards

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Alabama Senate committees OKs bill consolidating occupational licensing boards

Apr 02, 2024 | 8:07 pm ET
By Jemma Stephenson
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Alabama Senate committees OKs bill consolidating occupational licensing boards
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Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, attends an event at the Alabama State Capitol on March 21, 2024 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

An Alabama Senate committee Tuesday approved a bill that would consolidate occupational licensing boards in the state.

SB 224, sponsored by Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, would create a new executive director position to oversee the boards in the state, though a committee amendment removed some of them from the legislation.

“As we’ve discussed previously, this deals with the administrative functions of the board, not the functions of the board members themselves, so this is more how the board is administered,” Elliott said.

Fees from applicants for licenses and certifications, as well as all licenses, certification and renewal fees would go to the Occupational and Professional Licensing Fund. Gifts and grants would deposited to the State Treasury to the credit of those funds.

The bill was approved 5-4, according to the committee clerk after the meeting.

An amendment was added to the bill by Sen. Jay Hovey, R-Auburn, that removed the “Phase II” boards from the bill.

Phase II boards removed

State Board for Registration of Architects; Alabama Board of Court Reporting; State Board of Examiners for Dietetics/ Nutrition Practice; State Board of Registration for Foresters; Board of Hearing Instrument Dealers; Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators; Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; Alabama Onsite Wastewater Board; Board of Physical Therapy; Polygraph Examiners Board; Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology; Alabama State Board of Respiratory Therapy; Alabama Board of Social Work Examiners, and Alabama Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

It was approved by the committee 6-1, with two abstentions.

The bill was approved after a public hearing where opponents where all of the speakers opposed the legislation. Over a dozen people signed up to speak in person. Dozens more people listened and participated in the meeting over Zoom.

Jim Casteel, with the state Alabama Private Investigator Board, said he had concerns about some of the lines removed.

“I would assume that a lot of this stuff that’s been taken out would be replaced by Administrative Code rather than legislation,” he said. “We didn’t do that on purpose because our board shouldn’t have that power. It should be in legislation.”

Elliott said what was not in the legislation was still in the law. 

Joel Blankenship, with the Alabama Athletic Commission, said that their current executive director serves no other board and asked they be removed from the legislation.

“Our board requires our executive director to be at events on nights and weekends which a state employee in the state of Alabama associated with the Department of Labor likely will not,” he said. “It is a health and safety concern for us to have our executive director there, who by the way is a former EMT and has knowledge about health about how to read records and things like that.”

Democrats on the committee had questions about the goals of the legislation.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, had a number of questions going through the legislation, including questions about how the boards would handle lawsuits if they share a collective fund.

“Even though they are still separate entities, but now I’m being asked to take on the legal responsibilities of paying for Board of Medical Equipment,” she asked.

Elliott said he would get back to her.

Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove asked about the qualifications of the new executive director position, as it was not outlined in the bill.

Elliott said he would entertain an amendment to the legislation.

Elliott said there were cases when private for-profit entities took over the back-office work for the boards and caused problems, such as shutting down a website. 

Coleman asked why the bill was not targeting that for-profit piece specifically.

“I think that we deal with that particular issue,” she said.