MONTGOMERY — The administration of 38 licensing boards in Alabama would be consolidated into a new office inside the Department of Labor under a bill filed last week by State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine).

The bill would establish the Office of Occupational and Professional Licensing within the Department of Labor to "serve as a centralized entity providing leadership, support, and oversight to certain professional or occupational licensing boards operating within the state."

The bill also outlines the process for the appointment of the office's executive director, deputy directors, and other staff for the office, including investigators, and would provide uniformity for certain provisions relating to licensing, fees, funding and expenses.

Licensing boards are managed by individual state employees or private companies in Alabama.

"It really is just the administrative functions of the board moving so that they're handled by fewer people and oftentimes people that are more professional and experts in that particular area," Elliott told 1819 News in an interview last week. "You may have someone who is a procurement expert for instance that's handling the procurement for 15 different boards because it's not all that complicated and there's not all that much work but it needs to be done right. Or, somebody that's handling the financial components to several different boards. Instead of just having one or two employees that are trying to be experts at everything, let's consolidate this and get some economies of scale out of it and, oh by the way, make sure it's being done right and remove the profit motivation that exists right now. I'm as capitalist as they come and free market and small government as they come, but when you've got an entity acting as the state with the powers of the state that then on top of that has a profit motivation, that's a scary thing. That's a really scary thing and that's what a lot of licensees are saying."

The Senate County and Municipal Government Committee held a public hearing on the bill last week but didn't take a vote. The bill is supported by Gov. Kay Ivey.

T-Michael Dougherty, chairman of the Alabama Board of Physical Therapy — one of the boards that would be consolidated into the Department of Labor under the legislation — said during the public hearing he opposed the bill. 

"We're literally a model of governance. We're solvent. We've never had any issues, never had any sunset issues," Dougherty said. "Our turnaround time for compliance is literally two days. Time to licensure (is) days. Compare that against Georgia it's months. Compare that against Florida it's months. (Compare that against) Tennessee it's months. Our board is a model of efficiency and effective governance."

State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) said during the public hearing, "I truly believe that this is a move in the right direction to get people on board immediately because if we talk about it, nothing is going to change for another year."

"The people that are the ones that are getting hurt are the general public going to get that license so they can do their occupation and pay their taxes to be good citizens. They're looking at fees, all kinds of different money they have to pay in that sometimes they shouldn't have to be getting paid. For one example, I've got one board that's got $40 million in reserves. They just went up again 5% in the last four years. It's things like that we need to be talking about and how that's enriching particular boards where it's not enriching I truly believe the people that should be getting that money back on a rebate or something like that which are the people that are in these occupations," Gudger said.

Susan Han, Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology's legal counsel, told 1819 News in a statement last week, "The psychology board and its office have been fiscally responsible with licensee's fees and does not draw from the general fund." 

"The psychology board is efficiently run and does not burden the state or taxpayers. Our small staff has consistently met the state's legal requirements regarding operations plans, budgeting, reporting, property management, and inventory. As far as the proposed consolidation, it is not possible for one office to properly supervise so many widely diverse groups, each with its own unique needs and responsibilities," Han said.

If passed into law, board that would be consolidated into the Office of Occupational and Professional Licensing on Oct. 1, 2025 are the: Board of Examiners of Assisted Living Administrators, Alabama Athletic Commission, Alabama Board of Athletic Trainers, State Board of Auctioneers, Alabama Professional Bail Bonding Board, Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board, Board of Examiners in Counseling, Alabama Board of Electrical Contractors, Alabama Electronic Security Board of Licensure, State Board of Genetic Counseling, Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Geologists, Board of Home Medical Equipment, Alabama Board for Registered Interior Designers, Alabama Licensure Board for Interpreters and Transliterators, Alabama Board of Examiners of Landscape Architects, Alabama Board of Examiners in Marriage and Family Therapy, Alabama Massage Therapy Licensing Board, State Board of Midwifery, Alabama Board of Optometry, State Board of Podiatry, Alabama Private Investigation Board, Alabama State Board of Prosthetists and Orthotists, and the Alabama Security Regulatory Board.

Boards that would be consolidated on Oct. 1, 2026, include the: State Board for Registration of Architects, Alabama Board of Court Reporting, State Board of Examiners for Dietetics/Nutrition Practice, State Board of Registration for Foresters, Board of Hearing Instrument Dealers, Board of Nursing, Board of Examiners of Nursing Home Administrators, Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy, Alabama Onsite Wastewater Board, Board of Physical Therapy, Polygraph Examiners Board, Alabama Board of Examiners in Psychology, Alabama State Board of Respiratory Therapy, Alabama Board of Social Work Examiners, and the Alabama Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

The bill would maintain the validity of occupational and professional licenses issued before the transfer and the continuance of the rules of a transferred occupational or professional licensing board adopted before the transfer.

The bill would transfer the Sickle Cell Oversight and Regulatory Commission and all documents, records, functions, and responsibilities of the commission to the Department of Public Health. The bill would also transfer the Alabama Drycleaning Environmental Response Trust Fund Advisory Board and all documents, records, functions, and responsibilities of the board to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. 

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