Georgia might streamline state licenses plan

 

ATLANTA — Secretary of State Brian Kemp is working to win over trade organizations to his proposal to streamline how the state regulates professions.

Since unveiling his adaptation of a Texas plan last week, he’s faced criticism from various organizations and political opponents. The Democrats say the Republican Kemp is trying to make a power grab, and the members of the professions complain that they’ll lose influence.

Kemp says he’s just trying to save time for the professionals and money for taxpayers. That’s the only reason he’s willing to put up with the accusations, he said.

“The easiest thing for me is to do nothing,” he said, adding that he was elected promising improvements. Plus, he notes, Gov. Nathan Deal is encouraging all of state government to look for ways to remove barriers that prevent businesses from operating smoothly.

Kemp’s plan is to have the governor appoint a seven-member super board of consumers that will enact regulations recommended by the 43 existing boards of various professions, from used-car dealers to barbers to engineers. The board of consumers will also take over issuing sanctions to any licensed professional for serious violations of those rules.

Penalties for minor violations would now be issued by Kemp’s staff. The staff could issue fines on the spot rather than having to wait months for a licensing board to meet again and requiring the license holder to drive to Macon for the meeting.

Most violations are technical and routine, he said, such as a barber failing to display a “no pets allowed” sign or not putting the combs in the right place for sanitation.

“Our people see these violations every day. They’re black-and-white,” Kemp said, noting that few license holders dispute the fines. “They just want to pay the fine and go back to work.”

But such minor violations can close a funeral home or sideline an auctioneer until the professional board’s next meeting.

The overhaul would free up Kemp’s staff to review applications for licenses and renewals and reduce the 25-30 day backlog. Instead of preparing reports on the meetings of the 43 boards, the staff would only have to prepare such extensive documentation for the one consumer board.

The physicians aren’t staging a public fight over the proposal.

“The Medical Association of Georgia supports Secretary Kemp’s efforts to streamline and simplify licensing procedures in the state,” according to a statement the organization issued Monday. “MAG believes that doing so will reduce costs and create a more favorable practice environment.”

Other professional organizations are balking. For instance, the Georgia Nursing Association vocally objected in a face-to-face meeting with him during the group’s annual Nursing Day at the Capitol. As other trade groups conduct their annual member visits to Atlanta, Kemp is resigned to having to convince them, too.

He doesn’t have a legislator yet to sponsor the bill to accomplish his reorganization, but he’s confident on that front as well.

“As I talk to them and explain it, I’m slowly winning them over,” he said.

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