Committee advances Baker’s licensing agency overhaul

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – The governor’s latest executive branch reorganization, this one to shift 13 health-related licensing boards from the Division of Professional Licensure’s purview to the Department of Public Health, cleared its first hurdle Monday afternoon with a vote of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.

The committee voted during an executive session Monday to issue a favorable report for Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal (H 3774) under Article 87 of the state Constitution. The committee held a hearing on the bill last week and had until June 17 to report it out favorably or unfavorably — the committee could not redraft or amend it.

Under the reorganization, 88,000 licenses for chiropractors, dietitians and nutritionists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, social workers, and others would be transferred to the oversight of DPH. Baker filed his plan under Article 87 of the state Constitution on May 19.

Under that article, executive branch reorganizations require a legislative hearing within 30 days of being filed, a committee vote within 10 days of the hearing, and must receive an up-or-down vote from the Legislature, without amendment, within 60 days or the action takes effect.

The Legislature has until July 18 to act, though at least two of Baker’s previous Article 87 reorganizations took effect after lawmakers declined to act within the given 60 days.

The committee on Monday also heard testimony from DPL Commissioner Layla D’Emilia on a companion bill (H 3775) Baker filed to enhance DPL’s enforcement capabilities and update enabling statutes for several of the boards of registration that would remain under DPL.

Among other things, the bill would provide investigators and licensing boards with the authority to compel the production of documents, make a licensee’s failure to cooperate with a board or investigation an independent basis for taking disciplinary action, and increase penalties for certain violations.

“Currently, DPL boards are limited in their fining authority with first-time violations capped at a $100 fine, second violations at $500, third violations at $1,500 and fourth violations at $2,500. Those low amounts are simply not enough to deter bad behavior and are often viewed as a cost of doing business,” D’Emilia said. “To remedy this dynamic, the proposal before you today will make modest increases to these amounts. DPL boards will now be able to fine up to $500 for a first-time violation, up to $1,500 for a second-time violation, $2,500 for a third and $5,000 for a fourth.”

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