Legislation that would create a new Occupational Licensing Boards Division within the Alabama Secretary of State's Office passed out with a favorable report from the Senate County and Municipal Government committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 156 by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) states the boards division within the Secretary of State's Office would act "as a centralized entity to regulate and provide oversight to all occupational licensing boards operating in the state."

Ten boards and commissions are exempted from the legislation. On Wednesday, an amendment approved by the committee added the State Board of Public Accountancy, the State Banking Department, the Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission, the Securities Commission, and the Department of Insurance to the list of boards and commissions excluded from the legislation.

"While I'm not convinced necessarily that they couldn't benefit from this streamlining, I wanted to unpack that further before we get into that," Elliott said at the meeting. "We may do that in subsequent sessions. Right now, they made a compelling argument that they had some intertwining with other federal agencies. I needed some more time and more discussion with them to unpack that, so that's why these folks are excluded." 

According to Elliott, there are currently somewhere between 63 to 151 occupational licensing boards and commissions in Alabama.

State Sen. Merika Coleman (D-Pleasant Grove) said she planned to offer an amendment to exclude boards for interior designers, optometrists, chiropractors, and funeral services.

State Sen. Jay Hovey (R-Auburn) said at the meeting said, "As this unfolds, I wonder how much of these requests for exemptions are warranted, and maybe we should start to really look at some of the problematic boards and commissions and not have an overcorrection and an inclusion of some of these that are successfully governing themselves."

"We're going to get in the weeds with a growing list of exemptions as we go forward," Hovey said.

State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) said, "There are some boards that from talking to the examiners that they're almost walking into someone's house and getting receipts pulled out of a shoebox in the closet."

"There are certain boards that are out there that are not doing what we need them to do and representing their own licensees that they're giving those licenses to," Gudger said on Wednesday. "This is something that will correct and streamline that under one agency which I would agree there are certain boards that will need this (and) certain boards we might have to look at that might not need it. This is a beginning point."

Lisa Hill, executive director of the Alabama Propane Gas Association, said at the meeting, "We're kind of pleading with you right now that yes, we do want to keep our" Alabama Liquefied Petroleum Gas Board. 

"We are more than happy to talk to you about some efficiencies or things like that even though I think that we very much run, not me, but the board very much runs our board efficiently, and I think that we are very good for consumers and to get rid of our board would be very detrimental to Alabamians," Hill said.

Elliott said at the meeting that his legislation streamlines "back office activities…under one central spot which at this point is the Secretary of State's Office, which already does a lot of business services right now" and doesn't change the composition of existing boards.

Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen told 1819 News recently, "Although I understand the purpose of the bill, I do not feel that the Secretary of State's office is the right vehicle for its implementation."

According to a recent study, Alabama has the third-highest occupational licensing burden in the country.

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