RE: Response to September 1, 2016 Study Relating to the Transfer of all Nonhealth Regulatory Boards to a New Licensing and Regulatory Division
Dear Mr. Brown:
Please consider this letter the Board’s official response to the Study you submitted to the Governor, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and Secretary of State. The Board felt compelled to respond in order to correct inaccuracies and submit information necessary for you, the Governor, and the Legislature to use when contemplating changes to the existing regulatory model in Arizona.
The Board of Technical Registration is, and has been, since its creation in 1921, a self-sustaining, consolidated Board, regulating the five major, learned professions of Engineering, (of which there are 17 separate subspecialties,) Architecture, Surveying, Landscape Architecture, and Geology. The Board also regulates the Alarm Industry and the Home Inspection industry. It is comprised of 9 members, appointed by the Governor to serve no more than 2 three year terms, from the five professions. None of the five professions has a majority of members on the Board.
The five major science and design professions the Board regulates produce highly technical plans used in many different professional settings, on state and federal building projects. People who have obtained education and/or experience in the professions of engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, surveying and geology can work in those fields without registration, but they must work for a supervising registrant who has demonstrated competence and safety to practice by providing evidence to the Board that he or she has 96 months (8 years) of approved education and/or experience and have passed the national examinations required throughout the U.S., and in two circumstances, required and administered by the Board.
Arizona has a less restrictive registration process than its surrounding states, which will not register people who have not obtained education from a nationally accredited college/university program. Utah and New Mexico will not reciprocally license Arizona registrants if they do not possess a nationally accredited education in their proposed profession. Their stricter licensure requirements may be why Arizona has at least three times the number of registered professionals than those states. Currently, the Board regulates approximately 43,000 licensees and has registered over 5500 firms.
The Board does not require continuing education or professional development hours for license renewal because, after consulting with stakeholders, it determined that CE did not increase professional competency and only increased bureaucratic requirements for license renewal.
The Board actively engages its licensed population to assist with review of applicant credentials and qualifications for registration. Committees of licensed professionals voluntarily meet weekly at the Board, for several hours, to review applications for registration and for exam authorization, and make recommendations to the Board. The Board also has the statutory authority to delegate to its Executive Director the ability to grant reciprocal registrations, Alarm certifications, and other designated license types.
After the Board issues and renews licenses, it actively investigates and prosecutes licensees who violate its governing statutes and rules, in order to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the public. Complaints the Board receives are triaged by an enforcement manager and assigned to one of 4 investigators. Staff complies with timeframes established to investigate complaints and the Board acts upon all complaints within 6 months of receiving them.
This short investigative timeframe is a significant achievement given that a majority of complaints which allege that a licensee lacks technical knowledge and skill to practice safely must be sent to volunteer professional evaluators for review and recommendation. These evaluators are paid no less than $125 per hour at their places of employment and spend uncounted hours reviewing Board complaints, evidence and interviewing witnesses for free-at no cost to the Board.
Importantly, the Board has the statutory authority to prosecute individuals performing work that requires registration, because the work is complicated and detailed. The public doesn’t easily understand the work performed by the Board’s licensees or the qualifications required from licensees to practice safely.
The Board is appropriated for 25 employees but operates with a “headcount” of 21, having embraced the LEAN process since 2013. Staff is organized into three units according to function: Licensing (5 employees), Enforcement (6 employees), and Board Operations (8 employees). Staff also includes a Deputy Director with 20 years of regulatory experience and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, and an Executive Director with over 20 years of regulatory experience, a law degree, and 15 years of experience as an Assistant Attorney General advising regulatory boards and prosecuting licensees in Arizona.
In 2013, and in anticipation of its Sunset in 2016, the Board began strategically planning to improve its processes and to streamline its procedures. It instituted a compliance monitoring program to ensure that those licensees placed on probationary orders after an enforcement action actually comply with Board orders. It drafted all new licensing procedures to ensure that all applications for registration and exam authorization were processed within timeframes established in rule.
The Board also determined to invest in the services it provides to the public by purchasing a new computer data base that would allow people to apply for registration and renew on line, search more easily for licensee information on line and pay for services the Board provides with credit cards. The new computer system will also allow the Board to scan all documents.
It took nearly 2 years for the Board to complete ADOA’s procurement process and receive the legal authority to pursue its IT goals. The Board’s IT contract was awarded to GL Solutions at the end of 2015, at a cost of nearly $1,000,000. The system is projected to “go live” in May 2017.
During the 2016 Legislative Session, the Legislature continued the Board for eight years, until 2024. Last session, the Board introduced 3 pieces of legislation designed to streamline its processes and deregulate occupations no longer in need of State regulation, specifically, Assayers, Remediation Specialists and the Clandestine Drug Laboratory Remediation program. Those programs were sunsetted on August 6, 2016.
In 2016, the National Council of Landscape Architect Registration Boards awarded the Board its “Model Board” designation for the Board’s demonstrated utilization of best practices in regulation which ensure the greatest efficiency, effectiveness and protection of public health, safety, and welfare.
COMMENTS ON THE STUDY
The Study’s authors “purposely limited the set of recommendations (they made) to just a few items that: (1) would offer the greatest immediate benefits, and (2) have the highest probability of becoming adoptable policy or law (as applicable).” With respect, their recommendation to consolidate all the Boards included for review in the study in one building, simply to pay lower rent, does not offer the “greatest immediate benefit.”
Of the six “nonhealth” boards that the Study comprised, the Pharmacy, Barber, and the Cosmetology Boards are arguably health regulatory boards. This Board submits that many of the Study’s authors’ recommendations were taken from this Board’s current, best practices.
Regarding Recommendation 1: Consolidating the boards to the Capitol Mall area: the Board is already located on the Capitol Mall. The Study indicates that the Board occupies 8500 sq. feet of space in a “privately owned” building and offers that a benefit would occur if the Board pays lower rent to lease smaller space (250 sq. feet per employee), in a State owned building. Actually, the Board occupies closer to 7500 sq. feet, already configured to suit its needs, in a building that the State is in the process of repurchasing pursuant to a lease/purchase agreement with the building’s current owners, Lincoln Properties. The Board pays its rent to ADOA, which, in turn, pays the owner to repurchase the building it currently occupies.
The Study does not include considerations for investigative interview rooms, or to accommodate the numerous Board and committee meetings held at the Board’s office on a weekly basis. Nor does it consider the space needs of the Board’s two executives. The Study fails to include moving costs or the cost of downtime for the Board to move to a building just down the street.
Recommendations 2 and 4: Developing one centralized database for all occupational licenses across Arizona, is a fine goal, but the needs of each agency, board and commission differ according to the requirements for the registration and regulation of diverse occupations and professions.
The Board has just committed to paying GL Solutions nearly a million dollars to create a modern database that will provide licensing intake, license verifications, case management in a paper free environment, and allow the Board to accept credit cards for the fees it must charge for services it provides to the public. If this recommendation is adopted, the Board respectfully requests that serious consideration be paid to hiring GL Solutions, its vendor, to service the entire State’s licensing needs so that the Board and its licensed populations do not lose that million dollar investment.
Recommendations 3 and 5 of the Study address the consolidation of licensing and complaint intake among six boards. Respectfully, the Board, which is already consolidated to provide licensing and complaint services to five professions and two occupations, already engages in the type of triage recommended in the Study. Further consolidation of these triage services will not save money by eliminating any full-time employees currently engaged in these tasks. In fact, it may cost the State more money to hire additional staff to triage additional professions’ questions and complaints.
Recommendation 6 in the Study suggests that boards implement a centralized compliance monitoring program for those registrants placed on a probationary Board order. As described above, the Board implemented this type of compliance program in 2013 to ensure that its registrants comply with its corrective disciplinary orders. Also, being a “nonhealth” board, this Board does not regulate license holders who have access to prescription medications, and therefore, does not order any licensees to complete substance abuse treatment. Such programs are relevant to “health” regulatory boards.
Interestingly, the Study focused on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Delaware as states with “umbrella agency” structures for comparison, and highlighted what its authors thought were successful actions. Perhaps the writers should have spoken with stakeholders, such as licensees, and/or agency employees, who get “caught up” in the bureaucracy inherent in such giant agencies. Customers are not as well served by umbrella agencies and investigations take much longer to complete. Disciplinary actions taken to protect the public are taken more slowly and less frequently by umbrella agencies than by stand- alone agencies such as this Board.
The Study doesn’t offer any suggestions about how to ensure that any umbrella agency created in Arizona would avoid the challenges and disappointments faced by umbrella agencies. Nor does the Study include the experiences of Oregon, which abolished its umbrella agency structure and returned to an independent agency model.
Independent agencies, if administered by competent and dedicated individuals, can operate more flexibly and responsibly. Issues and concerns can be addressed quickly and efficiently, without political influence and at lower cost than at large, umbrella agencies.
At a cost of $150,000, this Study is vague and contains inaccurate information. The Board submits that it should not be the sole basis of consideration when drafting new legislation to abolish the current regulatory model in Arizona in favor of an undefined, giant bureaucratic umbrella agency. Consideration should be paid to what is actually working effectively and protecting the public before changes are made indiscriminately.
The Board respectfully requests the courtesy of an invitation to take part in any discussions or plans to revise its structure prior to the start of the upcoming Legislative session. Please contact the Board’s Executive Director, Melissa Cornelius, if you require more information or assistance.
Jason Madison, S.E.
cc: Governor Douglas Ducey (via Gretchen Martinez)
President of the Senate (via Melissa Taylor, Chief of Staff)
Speaker of the House (via Tami Stowe, Chief of Staff)
Michele Reagan, Secretary of State