As Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, we are profoundly concerned about a recent bill that is being considered in the NC General Assembly. We are sharing it here because it has much farther reaching implications than just our profession. 54 other professions are being targeted in a study presented to the general assembly and we feel it is our duty to inform the public about this very controversial piece of potential legislation. It is not our usual practice to involve ourselves in political matters, however, this proposed law may not only devastate our state's already very fragile economic security, it represents a very real threat of harm to the public.
A report (<--- click to download) developed for the NC General Assembly was developed to study the effectiveness of 55 different state licensing boards for professional occupations in NC (listed below). While this report suggested that stronger oversight is needed with some of these Boards, it did not make the specific recommendations being brought forth in this bill. Instead, the bill proposes that state licensure boards either be completely eliminated or in some cases, consolidated into other boards, some of which happen to be vastly different in philosophy and scope of services. 17 different professional licenses are proposed to be ELIMINATED in this dangerous piece of potential legislation.
The purpose of all state Licensing Boards are, in large part, to set and enforce high ethical and safety standards and practices as well as to protect the public by providing recourse to anyone harmed by the behavior of a License Holder. Even the report itself described that occupational licensing is "intended to help ensure the public is protected from severe physical or economic harm resulting from the associated activities of an occupation." Without the established complaint/adjudication protocols that licensure boards provide (at no cost to the consumer bringing the complaint), it stands to reason that personal litigation would be the only recourse for consumers/members of the public who are harmed by a practitioner of an unlicensed professional occupation. Those who are harmed by unlicensed professionals but cannot incur the costs associated with litigation of this kind will simply be powerless. And we can be sure of this: corporations who employ unlicensed practitioners will be far more prepared to pay the cost of fighting litigation like this than the individual who is harmed by them.
A public hearing to address this bill was held in Raleigh on April 5, 2016, but less than FIVE MINUTES of public discourse was allowed, and from only ONE REPRESENTATIVE of each of the occupational categories present. This event was anything but a HEARING. According to many of the attendees of this event, several Committee members refused to make eye contact with the speakers and some never even got off of their smart phones. The committee made their statement loud and clear that we, the people would NOT BE HEARD on that day.
On April 5, after each professional group got their 5 minutes to voice opposition, sponsor of the bill, Andy Wells (R -- Catawba and Alexander Counties) reportedly turned to the committee and stated that he thought it would be best for the committee to reconvene the discussion privately, among committee members only (this comment has been reported by someof the professionals present). Representative Jordan then motioned to "table" the decision, ostensibly so the committee can do more research into the implications of the proposals being made. But if the committee is truly interested in researching the issue responsibly, they would INCLUDE THE PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES WILL BE DIRECTLY IMPACTED BY ITS IMPLEMENTATION.
We simply cannot allow a group of 16 people (<--- click to download a document listing the committee members and their contact information) to, behind closed doors, determine the future of more than SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND PROFESSIONALS in the State of NC.
These professionals have a right and A DUTY TO THE PUBLIC, to have a powerful say over the decisions being proposed in this irrational and ill-conceived bill.
We propose that before any decision can be made on this or any future bill involving professional licensure, an advisory council must be developed, made up of one Licensed representative from each professional occupation being named in the bill, as well as all listed in the report. Without feedback from the professionals who actually hold these licenses, the committee would not possibly anticipate the actual negative consequences of their proposal, nor could their research into its impact ever be considered complete. Without this input and more feedback from the public at large, this kind of decision is simply undemocratic.
Even if you don't live in NC, you can share the petition and raise awareness on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/Pinterest, etc. so others who DO live in NC can sign it. PLEASE help this issue go viral and take the 5 minutes to share this information. Your friends and/or family in NC need to know about this.
The most crucial aspect of "going viral" is the old "Breck Shampoo Commercial Phenomenon" (For those who don't remember, this was the ad where the lady with beautiful hair told 2 friends about Breck, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on...). We need you to tell your friends (MANY MORE THAN JUST TWO!) in order for people to really understand what the NC legislators are trying to do here! Please post to your social media pages. Target pages that are specifically for people in these professions! Tag all of the people you know who fall into the 55 professional categories listed below. Ask people to imagine what it would be like to go to an unlicensed Acupuncturist and have NO RECOURSE FOR MALPRACTICE! This, and much worse, is what this bill will lead us to. (Use the above "Summary of Proposed Legislation" to give people an overview of what we are up against!)
Whether you live in NC or not, please share this page, the petition, and the summary document anyway, because chances are, YOU KNOW SOME PROFESSIONAL PEOPLE IN NC WHO FALL INTO ONE OF THE BELOW NAMED CATEGORIES OF PROFESSIONAL OCCUPATION that are at risk!
*Cape Fear River Navigation and Pilotage
*Certified Public Accountants
*Engineers and Surveyors
*Environmental Health Specialist
*Fee-Based Practicing Pastoral Counselors
*Fire and Casualty Insurance Licensees
*Life and Health Insurance Licensees
*Hearing Aid Dealers and Fitters
*Interpreters and Transliterators (including for the deaf)
*Law Examiners/State Bar (combined)
*Marriage and Family Therapy
*Massage and Bodywork Therapy
*Morehead City Navigation and Pilotage
*Nursing Home Administrators
*Onsite Wastewater Contractor Inspectors
*Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinkler
*Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists
*Substance Abuse Professionals
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