One of the larger occupational fights at the state Capitol just broke out into the open.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp today condemned a House effort to remove his oversight of licensing for dentists and pharmacists as an attempt to expand state government that would drain cash needed to process licenses for hundreds of thousands of other professionals.
HB 132, sponsored by state Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainvesville, a dentist by profession, was passed out of the House Rules Committee this morning. Kemp has sent the following letter (emphasis mine) to House members:
I want to take a moment and issue a clear position on House Bill 132. This bill seeks to end the Office of the Secretary of State’s administrative support of the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy and the Georgia Board of Dentistry and move this administrative responsibility to a new independent government entity within the Department of Community Health.
I have asked multiple times how HB 132 in its current form would be funded, and I have not received a response. It is a fair assumption that HB 132 would take money for administration from the Professional Licensing Boards (PLB) Division rather than being funded by existing appropriations from the Georgia Drug and Narcotics Agency.
Due to budget cuts, staffing at the PLB Division has been reduced by over 30% since 2008. However, the growth of the licensed population and increased statutory duties have greatly impacted our ability to provide the speed of licensure and customer service levels that we all agree Georgia citizens deserve, answer phone calls in a timely manner or at all, and provide proper enforcement to protect the public.
At the end of FY12 there were 489,904 active licensees in Georgia. Including pharmacy technicians and dental hygienists, the combined Dentist and Pharmacy population is 51,678. If HB 132 becomes law, hundreds of thousands of Georgia professionals that would still be licensed by the PLB could be harmed.
In committee testimony, I heard comparisons between this proposed transfer and the transfer of the State Archives to the Board of Regents. The Archives budget is independent of any other division in our Agency. That transfer hurts no one and is not analogous to HB 132.
As a matter of political philosophy, I oppose the growth of government. Most of us can agree that we have too many entities in state government. HB 132 clearly and statutorily creates a new attached government agency that would require a new executive director, licensing personnel, administrative staff, physical offices and IT infrastructure. Paired with the fact that HB 132 would negatively impact hundreds of thousands of Georgia professional license holders in its current form, I cannot in good conscience support this bill.
I appreciate and am sympathetic to the position that the dentists and pharmacists find themselves in, along with the other 40 boards that are administrated by my Office. However, this solution is not a fiscally responsible way to address this position as it grows government and creates new bureaucracies.
The members of the state ethics commission, eager to bring order to one of the most disordered corners of state government, hired a “receiver” last week to heal their agency and then did they only thing they could.
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