The State Board of Electrical Contractors will now require an examination for provisional licensees to be issued an electrical contractor's license. While the board's executive director blames lawmakers for past issues, those lawmakers say the good news is there is a solution in place.
The change comes after years of knowledge by the board that it did not have the legislative authority to charge for provisional licenses, which are licenses given to those who did not pass a national standardized exam for electrical work.
However, the board said licenses are needed to protect property owners and tenants from faulty electrical installations. The licenses also protect those installing electrical work by ensuring they have the knowledge required to perform electrical work safely.
Keith Warren, the executive director of the Alabama Electrical Contractors Board, said the board has wanted to gain legislative authority to issue provisional licenses but said the legislature has failed to pass a bill. He said if the board had not offered provisional licenses for the past several years, hundreds of electrical workers would be out of a job in Alabama.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) said some people have thought for over a decade they were licensed.
"Now all of a sudden they are getting the rug pulled out from underneath them," said Elliott. "They were never properly licensed to begin with. Unfortunately, this is a two-pronged thing. I am frustrated with the board for giving these out and B, now these people have done that and based their business on that license for over 10 years but now the board is telling them they don't have the authority so they don't have a license anymore."
State Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) said he questioned the board during a July Sunset Committee meeting.
"The legislature didn't approve changing the law but they just kept issuing these licenses," Simpson told 1819 News. "They should have stopped issuing the fee. They have been told in Sunset for years to stop. This year they got upset about it but after we got through the argument of it, they said they would withdraw the fee, so they're not doing that fee anymore."
Warren accused Elliott of single-handedly stopping a bill to give the board the authority to issue the licenses. However, Elliott said there were other problems with the bill, such as the expansion of power of the board and adding fees.
"It was a crazy power grab that sought to retroactively legitimize the board's and Warren's illegal activities and vastly expand the power and authority of the board and its executive director while increasing income through reimbursement for the staff, Warren," Elliott said.
The bill stated those in violation could be responsible for fines and the cost of an investigation, including attorney's fees and costs connected to court proceedings, such as travel for board staff and witness travel expenses.
The bill also limited who could run as an officer on the board and gave the board subpoena power.
Warren said the board wants everyone to be able to pass the exam to be licensed and will offer prep and support.
"The Board has reviewed and approved an examination that is administered in the State of Arkansas by our current examination provider that has an extremely high pass rate," said Warren. "We will be holding seminars around the state providing an overview of the examination content prep along with sample questions."
Those impacted will have until June 30, 2024, to pass the electrical contractor's license exam.
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