Licensing overhaul would empower regulators, transfer boards

Boston Statehouse

Massachusetts State House

BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation Wednesday to overhaul the state’s professional licensing operations, proposing to transfer 13 boards to the Department of Public Health and to give regulators enhanced authority to investigate license holders.

The bill, dubbed the Act Relative to Licensing Accountability in the Commonwealth, would also prohibit Level 3 sex offenders from obtaining any license from the Division of Professional Licensure or DPH, and allow the DPL to seek criminal prosecution on anyone engaged in unlicensed massage therapy as a way to crackdown on human trafficking.

Baker also recommended giving the division the authority to compel license holders to produce documents during the course of an investigation, with enhanced civil penalties for failure to cooperate.

“Over the past year, our Administration conducted a comprehensive review of operations and staffing at the Division of Professional Licensure, and implemented significant changes including hiring new staff, improving internal communications and procedures, and strengthening relationships with local law enforcement,” Baker said in a statement. “Our proposed legislation builds on these internal improvements and will serve to further strengthen and improve the operations of this important agency so it can better serve the public.”

A copy of the bill was not immediately available, but the governor’s office said the bill proposes to move 13 licensing operations from DPL to DPH, as first proposed in the administration’s 2019 health care bill. The licensing boards that would be transferred include allied health; allied mental health; chiropractors; dietitians and nutritionists; dispensing opticians; hearing instrument specialists; podiatry; optometry; psychologists; social workers; speech pathology and audiology; health officers; and sanitarians.

By transferring these health-related licensing board to DPH, the administration said the professions would benefits from the oversight of public health experts.

Under the proposal, DPL would retain oversight of 15 licensing boards covering everything from electricians to massage therapists, as well as 10 boards, bureaus or other governing bodies within the Office of Public Safety and Inspections, and the Office of Private Occupational School Education.

To reflect its new charge, the division would be renamed by the bill the Division of Occupational Licensure.

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