The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations was held on Friday, July 9, 2004, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Gary Tapp, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Gary Tapp, Co-Chair; Representative Denver Butler, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, David Boswell, Tom Buford, Brett Guthrie, Daniel Mongiardo, Richard Roeding, and Jack Westwood; and Representatives Tom Burch, Larry Clark, Ron Crimm, Jon Draud, James Gooch, Dennis Horlander, Paul Marcotte, Charles Miller, and Jon David Reinhardt.
Guests: Kristen Webb, Director, John Parrish, and Susan Ellis, Division of Occupations and Professions; Van Cook, Executive Director, and Frank Dempsey, General Counsel, Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction; Jim Adams, Commissioner, Cabinet of Public Protection and Regulation; Lloyd Cress, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection; and Jeff Pratt, Director, and Sandy Gruzesky, Division of Water.
LRC Staff: Vida Murray, Ann Seppenfield, Bryce Amburgey, and Susan Cunningham.
The first item on the agenda was approval of the minutes of the November 2003, meeting. The motion carried and the minutes were adopted by voice vote. Senator Tapp informed members that Judy Fritz had left the Committee to become Committee Staff Administrator of the Task Force on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.
The next item on the agenda was a presentation from Kristen Webb, Director, Division of Occupations and Professions. Ms. Webb gave an overview of the Division, its functions and how a new board is established. She identified the need for additional staff and the cost of adding a new board as potential problems for the Division. She said one staff member could manage two medium-sized and one small board. The total administrative cost for a new board would be approximately $47,450; however, $40,300 of that amount could be absorbed by three boards. She identified the Fee Based Pastoral Counselors Board, the Nursing Home Administrators Board, and the Interpreters for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Board as the boards that are having financial difficulty and offered as possible remedies, enacting laws to boost membership, to require licensure instead of certification, and to establish a sunset provision. Other resolutions offered included amending statutes to give more discretion to the Division to decide if a board should be funded and merging boards with similar professions.
Representative Larry Clark asked Ms. Webb to send the committee information on when all boards were started and which ones could be combined.
Ms. Webb gave the committee an update on the massage therapists' and private investigators boards. The Massage Therapy Board created in 2002, has received 495 applications. Of that number, 292 had been approved for licensure of which 215 have received their license. Ms. Webb indicated that board members have been meeting to review the application process, the budget for administrative fees, and reimbursement for attorney fees, printing, office and computer supplies, and postage. She said because the board is new and has no budget, it owes the Division of Occupations and Professions about $3,100. Regarding the new Private Investigators Board, she told the committee that 398 applications for licensing have been submitted and that 45 companies and 153 private investigators had been licensed. She said the board is also working on administrative regulations for approval and that the projected income for 2005 would drop since there would be no renewals until 2006.
Representative Gooch asked if the General Assembly had taken money from any of the boards, during the last budget cycle and if so, could that account for some of the boards' financial problems. Ms. Webb responded that the General Assembly had. Senator Tapp thanked Ms. Webb for the comprehensive packet she provided Committee members that sets outs a list of the boards the Division administers and the boards' expenses.
Ms. Webb said that the Division of Occupations and Professions wants legislation that would require criminal background checks for all mental health professionals including fee based-pastoral counselors, professional counselors, alcohol and drug counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional art therapists, and psychologists. Other boards that require criminal background checks for licensing are the Board of Real Estate Appraisers, Board of Nursing, Proprietary Education, Private Investigators Board, and Medical Licensure Board. Eighteen other states require criminal background checks for some or all of their mental health professionals. Under the scheme to be established, the applicant would pay $34 for the background check and a probationary license may be considered since it will take between two to six months before the reports are returned. She said an upcoming legislative issue for the Dietitians and Nutritionists board will be to require continuing education for licensees in inactive status.
Senator Roeding asked how this bill would effect someone who had just graduated from a college program since a six month internship is required before a license may be granted. Toni Rodgers, Chair of the Dietitians and Nutritionists Board, said there would be no impact on graduates. Representative Miller asked if an internship could be included in college courses while earning the degree. Ms. Webb added that the Social Workers Board is interested in pursuing legislation from the past session that reduces the waiting time in which a person who fails the exam may retake it.
The next item on the agenda was an update from Van Cook, Executive Director, Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction on the electrical licensing programs. He told the committee that six weeks ago the Office was eight weeks behind in meeting the July 15 deadline for grandfathering electricians. He said there was no standard method for processing applications and some applications had even been found stuffed in drawers. He said that checks were being deposited without processing applications and accounting practices were at best loose or non-existent. He said that by cross-training all available employees and using temporary employees, the backlog has been eliminated. He said approximately 17,000 licenses had been mailed to applicants and an additional 1,100 licenses were ready to mail. There are approximately 7,500 applications on hold for insufficient information. In addition a process for renewal has been put in place including an on-line re-certification process. There will be a color coded system for licensing and a dual certification card for contractors and master electricians will be issued. Mr. Cook said he has relocated all the Office's licensing activities to one central place in the building for better public access.
Senator Tapp asked how they were contacting pending applicants. Mr. Cook said by phone. Senator Boswell asked what consideration was being given applicants whose applications were delayed administratively. Mr. Cook said that some leeway would be given in those cases. Senator Buford pointed out that the language of House Bill 461 may provide a solution since it allows the Office to issue a pending license until the applicant's permanent license is issued or the application is denied.
Mr. Cook said regarding Senate Bill 34, the Office has sent a list of nominees for the Kentucky Board of Home Inspectors to the Governor's Office for selection. Also, the Office is drafting administrative regulations for home inspectors' licensing programs which will be available for the Board's first meeting. Mr. Cook said the Office is also drafting administrative regulations for House Bill 115 relating to low voltage licensing. The regulations would require a proficiency test, two years' experience, and an initial license fee of $100 with the renewal fee being $50.
Mr. Cook said changes the Office proposes for the next session are making licensure renewal dates for plumbing, manufactured housing, LPgas, and sprinklers coincide with the applicants' birth dates, requiring continuing education for license renewal, and requiring liability insurance, workers compensation, a uniform contract, a complaint mediation process, and continuing education for contractors.
Senator Boswell said he had received calls from Associated Industries of Kentucky (AIK) concerning the on-going maintenance of individual electrical licenses. Mr. Cook said he was in contact with AIK about an advisory bulletin to keep licensees informed. Senator Tapp said he thought centralizing licensing within the Office was a good idea.
Representative Gooch asked who would be responsible for obtaining proof of insurance if a master plumber is an employee of a hospital or school. Frank Dempsey, General Council for the Office, said the employer would provide insurance coverage. Senator Buford said liability insurance was important for consumer protection. Senator Tapp added that money for premiums was well spent to safeguard the licensee from losing his or her business in a lawsuit.
The final item on the agenda was a discussion of the permitting process for drinking water and infrastructure projects. Jeff Pratt, Director of the Division of Water, told the committee that there was a backlog of unprocessed applications. The Division has identified staff turnover and retirements, transition to a new data management and permitting system, untimely filling of vacant positions, and the recent increase in the number of project applications as causes. The Division's efforts to address this issue have included filling critical engineering positions, despite budgetary constraints, reallocating engineering resources from other functions, and entering into an agreement with the Louisville-Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to eliminate review redundancy. He said the Division of Water also plans to establish an arrangement with the Northern Kentucky Sewer District #1 that is similar to the one the Division has with MSD.
Mr. Pratt said currently an applicant submits his or her completed application, including drawings, specifications, and engineer certification. The Division of Water reviews and approves the plans and specifications. Then, the applicant supplies the Division written certification after the construction is complete. During the review the Division checks for the availability of drinking water, water quality, stream crossings, special use waters to evaluate disinfecting procedures, consistency with design standards and disposal of wastewater. The review process for wastewater must also include certification from the local authority on whether or not it has adequate capacity to accept the waste. If the Division has a complete application, it can be processed within 45 calendar days and construction must begin within one year or the approval will expire unless there is a written request for an extension.
Mr. Pratt said reasons for denying an application would be that sufficient capacity was not available, a facility is on a sanction list, and design standards cannot be met. Also, common deficiencies noted are incomplete or unsigned applications, drawings not signed or sealed by a professional engineer, insufficient cover over water or sewer lines, and inadequate separation between sewer and water lines.
Senator Tapp asked how long it took for final approval to be sent out. Mr. Pratt said if the information was submitted electronically an approval letter is sent out in less than three days. He said that the Division of Plumbing has recently implemented a similar process.
Senator Boswell asked if there could be an agreement to speed up the process for issuing permits in areas across the state, in floodplains and older areas, that pre-date the federal programs. Senator Borders commented that he was pleased with the progress being made to expedite applications.
Senator Tapp said that the three-to four-month backlog was undesirable because people had money borrowed for construction. Commissioner Cress said the backlog was being given priority. Mr. Pratt said that with the arrangement with MSD, projects were being approved in a more timely manner.
Van Cook added that the some of the backlog projects came through the Office of Housing, Buildings and Construction and in May, applications were at a 32-year high. Jeff Pratt told the committee that if the volume of applications in first six months of 2004 continue throughout the remainder of the year, the Division of Water will have received more applications than it did in the past three years, combined. Mr. Pratt indicated that the Division had made marked progress in alleviating the backlog. In two months, the backlog has decreased from approximately 250 projects to 180. Senator Roeding encouraged the Division to initiate conversations with the Northern Kentucky Water District #1 soon.
Representative Burch said he thought the Division of Water was on track with a pilot project, trying one area at a time rather than implementing the program untested throughout the whole state. Senator Buford said timing on water approvals was controversial; however, hasty approval does not work but instead causes problems since the systems must be installed properly and require water lines to be installed. He said if the Department of Water could hire two more engineers that could speed up the process. Senator Tapp suggested the Department bring in up to five retired engineers temporarily to help clean up the backlog. He also said the timeline for approving projects should be shortened. Lloyd Cress said the Division was creating a list internally so they would be aware of the status of application approval.
There being no other business before the committee with a motion and a second the meeting was adjourned.