House Bill 477, the legislation put forth by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, passed out of the Senate committee after amendments were agreed on and several Senators had their questions answered. The measure passed the Senate floor on May 26 with a vote of 37 to 0.
The measure, authored by Representative Joe Stagni, was a compromise measure following the downsizing of a 23-page bill introduced by the psychology board in 2020 and then again this year. Under pressure from opponents, the board agreed to substitute a fee bill, telling sources that without the increased fees the board would not be able to operate in the future. This message resonated with the majority of those attending a special meeting of the Louisiana Psychological Association called for by petition of those opposing the measure.
On the Senate floor, an amendment was attached to the bill by Alexandria Sen. Jay Luneau to rename the 2009 Act 251. Luneau’s amendment names Act No. 251 of the 2009 Regular Session “The Dr. James W. Quillin, MP, Medical Psychology Practice Act.” This came after the unexpected passing of Dr. Quillin, also from the Alexandria Pineville area, on May 25. The amendment appeared to prompt numerous additional authors to sign on to the measure.
The digest of the bill as finally passed by the Senate includes the following:
• adds that the board shall charge an application fee for each assistant to a psychologist that shall not exceed $50;
• adds that the board shall set a renewal fee not to exceed $50 for every assistant to a psychologist which shall be paid in accordance with present law;
• provides that the board shall assess an application and renewal fee to an individual who sponsors a continuing professional development course or activity and who wishes for the board to review and pre-approve the course or activity. Further provides the application and renewal fee shall not exceed $250;
• provides that the board shall assess an application fee to a licensee who seeks renewal and pre-approval of a continuing professional development course or activity and shall not exceed $25. The application fee shall only apply if a licensee intends to earn a credit for a course or activity in which the sponsor has not sought review or obtained approval by the board;
• stipulates that the board may collect reasonable admission fees from a licensee who attends a continuing professional development course or activity. Such fee may be collected for any course or activity that is offered, sponsored, or co-sponsored by the board. Proposed law further provides that the board shall not require attendance for a course or activity which may be offered, sponsored, or co-sponsored. Such activity shall be an elective for a licensee who chooses to attends;
• proposed law provides that the board may assess fees not to exceed $200 for the following special services identified by the board: (1) Application for authority to conduct telesupervision. (2) Application for an inactive license or renewal license status. (3) Application for emeritus status and renewal. (4) Any written or computer-generated license verification. (5) Any written or computer-generated disciplinary report. (6) To obtain a duplicate license. (7) To obtain a duplicate renewal certificate. (8) To obtain a mail list.
The Legislative Fiscal Office note indicates that the changes should total to $78,750 per year. The office estimates that $50,000 of this amount will come from continuing professional development preapproval applications. The estimate includes 200 annual applications multiplied by $250 each. The Office also estimates initial registration of unlicensed assistants will grow to 420 and produce revenue of $21,000. The report says this is based on a survey by the board finding that one sixth of licensees report the use of assistants.
At the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on May 20, Senator Stagni introduced the bill saying that the psychology board was important and it was having financial problems.
LSBEP Executive Director, Jaime Monic, and Dr. Erin Reuther, current President of the Louisiana Psychological Association, testified in favor of the bill.
Reuther said that “Our membership did hold a meeting last week and it was specifically to discuss this bill and we had record attendance at that meeting and over 72% of the members present at that meeting voted to support this legislation.“
Sen. Mills asked how many license holders in Louisiana and how many of those were represented in the association. Dr. Reuther answered that there were about 800 licensees and
about a little over 200 represented in the association.
Sen. Barrow asked about the composition of the board. She also asked if the bill was something the board came up with and then submitted to the membership and then the
membership voted on it.
Dr. Reuther said, “So actually this was a collaborative process, over the last 18 months with all the major stakeholders in the state including the state board of examiners, the Louisiana Psychological Association, and Louisiana School Psychological Association.”
Sen. McMath asked, “How much money do you think you need?“
Ms. Monic answered, “Most boards that are fully operational and fully funded or able to have
enough in reserves have up to $500-$1 million.“
Sen. McMath asked, “What else do you spend it on other than legal fees?”
Ms. Monic replied that legal and employees are the major expenses other than office space.
Sen. Stagni said that the psychology board is one of the few professions he knows of that does not fine their doctors and recover their costs. “They have a real crisis,” Sen. Stagni said.
Sen. Mills asked about the definition of the assistant. And also said that he intends to ask the committee for some clarity. He asked for Ms. Brandi Cannon, Senior Attorney with the Committee, to testify or ask questions in order to “… see if there are pitfalls in moving without more clarification.”
Ms. Cannon said, “So the concern would be that where the law doesn’t currently provide for assistants, this would simply create a new registration class.
“So our concern would be there, that it is fine to put a fee there, but you also need a substantive provision for this to put the parameters…
“The legislature can tell the board to go and further refine it but we need to create it first. This is a fee bill so you are really trying to avoid substantive provisions potentially.”
Sen. Stagni said he thought the provisions for assistants already existed and Ms. Monic agreed, commenting that supervisory personnel already exist in the statute.
Ms. Cannon asked, “Does it provide for the registration?” and Sen. Stagni said no. Then Cannon said, “So what you’re doing is creating a new registration class.” She said that there must be clear legislative direction or it “will be open to challenge.”
“We need sign posts, so we have Legislative direction, otherwise it is open to challenge that y’all, the board, would be creating law in affect with your rules. But we can work with you.”
Senator Mills said that there was some “work between here and the floor” to get those issues clarified.
He then asked about fees, saying “Up to $200 for things that are just easy to get that information, is everyone on the same page? Because there’s some things that are on the Internet that are just click a button and also free services by the board … as where you do certain license verification and I know some boards are almost free on that and here’s a pretty hefty fee. Everybody’s okay with that?”
Ms. Monic said, “A lot of these fees are already in rulemaking yet we are requesting that they be clearly established in statute…