Following the lead of Massachusetts and New York, California recently passed legislation requiring its Medical Board to publish disciplinary actions taken against licensees, as well as malpractice settlements and arbitration awards, on the Internet. The online physician profiles will also state whether the practitioner's license is in good standing and list any prior convictions or pending charges.
In a related story, Florida passed similar legislation this year requiring physicians to submit biographical information for physician profiles, despite heated opposition. Florida's Medical Board was unsuccessful in its bid to determine what information would be published; this will be determined instead by the state legislature. (source: Citizen Advocacy Center's News & Views, vol 9, nos. 2 and 3)
In June, the Florida legislature passed a measure to privatize the regulation of engineers, which became law without Governor Lawton Chiles's signature. Administrative and investigative board functions will now be performed by Engineers Management Corporation, a non-profit body. Previously, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation performed these tasks for the Board of Professional Engineers.
Five public engineering members and two public members will be named to the corporation, which is scheduled to begin operations July 1, 1998. The corporation will be funded by monies collected by the board.
The Florida Engineering Society (FES) spearheaded the campaign for privatization. "We ran into constant problems," said Dennis Barton, FES Government Affairs Director. "The Department [of Business and Professional Regulation] sets priorities and allocates funds and we know of some complaints that were simply not prosecuted," he said.
Governor Chiles said while he supports privatizing some services now provided by state government, he is concerned about the potential for antitrust abuse by the majority of engineers who comprise the new corporation's board of directors. He explained, "Years ago, professionals were completely self-regulating resulting in limited access to licensure and selective regulation. Allowing this bill to become law is in no way an indication that we should revert to that self-regulation model." Furthermore, Governor Chiles said he would withhold support of any future legislation to privatize state functions until he sees proof of resulting cost savings.
The corporation is scheduled to sunset in the year 2000 unless the legislature votes for its continuance. (source: Professional Licensing Report, June/July 1997, pp. 1-2)
New teachers entering Ohio classrooms in 2002 will be the first to face the new licensing procedures adopted by the state last year, according to The Plain Dealer. Instead of lifetime teacher certification, these teachers will receive five-year, renewable licenses. The Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers supported the change.
Before receiving the five-year license, Ohio teachers will have to complete a year of probation under experienced mentor-teachers and pass a classroom performance test scored by independent assessors. Renewal will be contingent on following a professional development plan and meeting continuing education requirements, with a master's degree or equivalent 30 semester hours required for licensed renewal at 10 years. (reprinted from NOCA's Professional Regulation News, Nov. 1997, p. 3)
Despite a high profile grassroots effort by SHOUT (Support Hygiene and Oppose Unequal Treatment), Initiative 678, which would have allowed dental hygienists to practice unsupervised, was defeated on November 4 by 53% of Washington voters.
Supporters of the initiative argued the public would enjoy more convenient and timely service if hygienists were allowed, for instance, to give injections or create temporary fillings in the absence of a dentist. "This will not expand our scope of practice," said state association Executive Director Nancy Southwick before the vote. "Hygienists don't want to...drill and fill," she explained.
Dr. Victor Barry, an ADA trustee and past President of the Washington State Dental Association, disagreed. Barry said the initiative involved "some periodontal therapies that were really quite invasive." Because of this, Barry stated, "it's important that the dentist be there as a backup for the hygienist. It's important that the dentist do the diagnosis and the exam."
Washington State Dental Association President Richard Crinzi said he was pleased that voters took time to study the issue and were not swayed by media endorsements. However, Crinzi criticized hygienists for using the initiative process to bypass the legislature. "With the legalization of paid signature gatherers," he explained, "the initiative process has moved from a true grassroots effort by the voters to special interest groups with enough dollars to buy their way on to the ballot."
Southwick, on the other hand, feels the Washington legislature has a long history of blocking bills proposed by hygienists due to pressure from the state's powerful dental lobby.
Had the initiative passed, Washington would have been required to create a separate board for dental hygiene. Currently, New Mexico is the only state with an independent regulatory board for hygienists. (Sources: ADA News Daily Online at www.ada.org and Professional Licensing Report, June/July 1997, pp. 9-10)