Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124
01/26/2018 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 275-EXTEND: BOARD OF MASSAGE THERAPISTS 3:53:04 PM CHAIR KITO announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 275 "An Act extending the termination date of the Board of Massage Therapists; and providing for an effective date." 3:53:23 PM MS. KOENEMAN, Staff, Representative Kito, explained that HB 275 extended the massage therapist board by four years. She added that as a newly licensed program, there would be growing pains and that the board was actively working to improve the industry to better protect Alaskans. 3:54:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked for the total fee massage therapists would pay. MS. KOENEMAN deferred to Sarah Chambers. 3:55:03 PM SARA CHAMBERS, Deputy Director, Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing, Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED), replied that there was a $200 initial application fee for a new licensee and a $290 biennial fee for a total of $490 for two years. Additionally, there was a $60 fingerprint charge, which was a pass-through amount. Those renewing would pay $290 for a two-year renewal. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked whether the fees were set by the board or by the division. MS. CHAMBERS replied that fees were set by the division in consultation with the board as set forth in AS 08.01.065. The fees had initially been set higher, and since there were more licensees it had been lowered. The division would continue to examine the fees annually and adjust accordingly. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON spoke to a discussion with staff regarding a number of letters requesting the board be dissolved. He expressed a concern that there was not the buy-in that had been hoped for. He asked Ms. Chambers for her impression of the amount of dissention. MS. CHAMBERS answered that she worked closely with the board and had not heard of much dissention until recently when the board faced the new question of education and qualifications. With 1,400 licensees, there had not been a majority of people questioning the board's fitness. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON mentioned a bill from former Representative Westlake regarding background checks and asked whether Ms. Chambers felt Alaska background checks were adequate. MS. CHAMBERS replied that this was the only licensing program which required a background check upon every renewal or every two years. No other of the 43 programs required that. One of the missing pieces in public protection was the licensure of massage establishments which the board supported and Representative Kito had a bill which addressed that. 4:01:35 PM CHAIR KITO clarified that HB 145 [subsequently withdrawn by sponsor] would be heard in committee as well as HB 110, which was his bill and he hoped to keep those separate from the sunset audit. 4:02:00 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked whether, should the board be dissolved, the department's work would cause an increase in fees. MS. CHAMBERS replied that the only cost of the board was travel and board meeting expenses. She estimated that should the board sunset, at least one additional staff member would need to be hired. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL queried which was the preponderant issue in the letters of dissent. MS. CHAMBERS explained that being a newly licensed industry, the board was working hard. They had found expectations for speedy licensure were not being met. The issues were that licensing took too long and there were too many hoops to go through. The board was currently analyzing its systems and licenses to meet public safety concerns as efficiently as possible. 4:05:12 PM CHAIR KITO clarified the two major issues were the cost of the board, which was decreasing due to an increase in licensed individuals, and the delay in the licensure process. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked whether the background checks were responsible for the delays. MS. CHAMBERS elucidated that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) handled the background checks and had to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). There was a delay due to the volume in tracking the fingerprints. The board had to evaluate each license and had to give thoughtful evaluation if they get back a negative report. Additionally, there was often an appeal of the board's decision, and that could take time. 4:08:07 PM REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON mentioned a letter from a licensee stating that the initial license had cost $610 and cost $410 every two years. He asked for confirmation. MS. CHAMBERS agreed that the initial fees had been slightly higher in 2016. The license fee of around $600 was correct. The department had since adjusted that downward. She added that more recent licensees had paid $290 plus the $60 fingerprinting fee. REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH asked about the enforcement responsibilities of the board. MS. CHAMBERS replied that all of the licensing programs had enforcement provisions. REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH asked about the review process. MS. CHAMBERS answered that there were accrediting agencies that were recognized by the board as well as other criteria that had to be met. That was one of the more recent issues that the board had faced. REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH declared his appreciation of the insight on the polling and questionnaires carried out by the board. 4:12:29 PM REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP mentioned that the board was licensing individual massage therapists and asked about the licensure of institutions. He asked whether the owner of the establishment would have to be a licensed therapist. MS. CHAMBERS replied there were currently no statutes governing massage establishments. 4:13:16 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL surmised that if someone were engaged in illegal activity, they probably would not go through the process of applying for a license. He asked whether it had ever happened that someone had applied and had been discovered to have engaged in illegal activity. MS. CHAMBERS replied in the affirmative, specifying that with the initial licensing push there had been some applicants who did not meet standards. She believed that the rationale behind continuing with background checks and fingerprinting was to ensure that all applicants were "on the up and up." 4:14:38 PM CHAIR KITO opened public testimony on HB 275. After ascertaining that no one wished to testify, he closed public testimony. 4:15:11 PM REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP declared that he would support the bill to extend the board. He stated he felt HB 275 did not go far enough as it did not license the massage establishments. He would work with the chair on some additional language. CHAIR KITO added that he was interested in addressing the issue of fingerprinting frequency and of licensure of massage establishments. 4:17:35 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL moved to report HB 275 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 275 was reported from the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee.