Online. Virtual. Centralized. Streamlined. Georgia’s 42 boards need to keep an active website, go paperless and web-based where possible, use videoconferencing rather than travel for board meetings, let the central Professional Licensing Boards Division handle minor violations, and let some boards be combined, says a December 2013 report by the House Study Committee on Professional Licensing Boards.
Those were a few of the recommendations of the committee, which was created by the Georgia legislature to explore any needed reforms to the existing structure of professional licensing in the state. After five meetings and input from the state’s 42 licensing boards, the committee announced its findings as to the best plan for more efficiency, better use of technology, and adequate funding and staff for professional regulation.
The committee recommended:
Minor investigations by central agency Some boards allow the PLB Division staff to handle minor investigations of licensees without requiring each violation to be brought before the board. This practice should be established by all boards and might reduce the need for meeting time.
All applications and renewals online plus more paperless options This will eliminate costs associated with paperwork and enhance efficiency, the panel said. Boards and central agency staff should go paperless for retention and printing of records, notifications, etc.
Mandatory website Boards should create and maintain a website that includes an online manual showing the board’s responsibilities, rules, and regulations, plus frequently asked questions that cover inquiries to the Secretary of State’s call center. These measures will reduce staff workload by reducing calls, said the panel.
More efficient technologies Utilizing videoconferencing for meetings, which could be accomplished by partnering with other state agencies to establish a statewide accessible network, would reduce travel expense to Macon for board meetings.
National testing PLB administrators should pursue all national organization testing/certification options and partnerships to minimize the need for state sponsored activities. They should also maximize state reciprocity to reduce redundant paperwork for applicants and administration.
Combined boards The Secretary of State should recommend to the legislature any existing boards that should be combined to reduce costs. However, the panel noted that a 1992 report by the Governor’s Commission on Effectiveness and Economy in Government would have decreased the number of boards from 38 to 23 but would have only saved the state $80,000.
Extended renewal periods/concurrent renewals Some boards have expressed interest in extending renewal periods from two to four or six years, which the General Assembly could authorize. The committee also recommended having license renewal periods for individuals with multiple licenses occur concurrently to reduce confusion.
Civil fines for unlicensed practice Investigators from the Secretary of State currently may only issue Cease and Desist Orders. “By the time law enforcement has a chance to follow up, the unlicensed practitioner has completed the job and moved to another location,” the committee said. It recommended that the legislature authorize a civil fine structure for unlicensed practitioners.
The committee called on the Secretary of State to undertake a performance review of the professional licensing board structure, account for any changes made, and report back to the legislature by December 1, 2014.