Gov. John Kasich's latest attempt to consolidate several boards and commissions - a plan the administration hopes to see enacted in the lame duck session - excludes the Architect's Registration Board, but is triggering consternation among members of the medical professional groups that would be consolidated.
Past attempts to cull the number of boards have triggered extensive turf battles among the various groups, most of which successfully convinced lawmakers that their individual oversight panels serve the public and their professions well. But the new proposal to combine 16 medical related boards into eight could be the most ambitious to date and will likely reenergize the constituencies and result in significant pushback in upcoming legislative hearings.
The latest consolidation effort comes as lawmakers wrap up their "Sunset Review" process of deciding which boards and commissions are no longer necessary.
Introduced earlier this week by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R-Bainbridge Twp.), the proposal ( SB 366, HB 617) follows last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found North Carolina's Dental Board violated antitrust laws by having dentists in effect regulate themselves by having members of the profession serve on the panel.
"With the need to address the Supreme Court case ruling, the General Assembly currently going through the Sunset Review process, and considering our administration's ongoing efforts to reform health care, it is important to look at these things in an interrelated way," said administration spokesman Tom Hoyt, of the Department of Administrative Services. "We applaud Senator Seitz, as well as Representative LaTourette, for taking on this effort and we look forward to working with them to get this to the governor's desk."
Sen. Seitz said his main aim in sponsoring the bill was to deal with the antitrust issue and he agreed to include the board consolidations after discussing the issue with the administration.
The lawmaker, who along with cosponsor Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon) is an anti-trust lawyer, said it was important to address the Supreme Court case so people would be willing to serve on the panels.
"If you face the prospect of antitrust liability, which could be substantial and expensive, you are going to say, 'No thank you, I'm not going to serve my profession,'" he said.
As for the "admittedly contentious and thorny issue of board consolidation," Sen. Seitz said the proposal was crafted after much thought and discussion and avoids involving some of the state's largest regulatory panels. He said the groupings "conceptually make sense" and pointed to consolidations of state agencies, such as Mental Health and Addiction Services, as examples of how such mergers could work.
The administration distributed a memorandum on its plan to the boards and their constituencies, and many are expected to oppose it. Their arguments harken to past debates over proposed consolidations, which include concerns over lack of sufficient oversight, sufficient representation on the panels, public safety and depleted knowledge of the various professions.
The new structure would retain the Chiropractic, Dental and Nursing boards in their current form and condense others into the following:
· State Medical Board of Ohio: Ohio Board of Dietetics, Ohio Respiratory Care Board, Medical Board.
· Ohio Board of Pharmacy: Home Medical Equipment Facility Licensing, Pharmacy Board.
· Physical Health Services Board: Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board, State Board of Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics.
· Behavioral Health Professionals Board: Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board, Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board, Ohio State Board of Psychology.
· Vision and Hearing Professionals Board: Ohio Board of Speech-Language Pathology & Audiology, Ohio State Board of Optometry, Ohio Optical Dispensers Board, Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters Licensing Board.
The representatives of other boards said they did not have a problem with the component of the proposal that directly addresses the court case.
Under that change, DAS would be involved in a third-party review process that "would be triggered when a board has the potential to violate state or federal antitrust law," according to the administration's fact sheet. "The addition of this review process is aimed squarely at shielding boards from potential legal action and specifically designed to prevent delays in important decisions made by the boards."