After publishing over 19,000 words of new proposed regulations, the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists conducted a public hearing on December 16. The board dismissed calls from the public for substantive changes.
Proposed rule changes include those for fees, registration and oversight of assistants, continuing education rules, training, credentials and scope of practice for neuropsychology, specialty designations, ethics for school specialists, and the rules for using an Emeritus title.
More than 20 individuals submitted criticism of the proposed rules, the majority of comments had to do with the oversight of assistants to psychologists.
As required by law, the State Board published a “Notice of Intent” of the changes in November 20 issue of the Louisiana Register. According to several sources attending the public meeting, the board members wanted to avoid “substantive” changes brought about by feedback, which would then require a second Notice of Intent.
Dr. Kim VanGeffen from the Public Affairs Committee of the Louisiana Psychological Association, noted, “The Board stated that they will be unlikely to make major changes to the Rules as, to do so, would require reposting the Rules and having another period of commentary. They may make what they would term minor changes.”
The Times asked Dr. Greg Gormanous, current chair of the State Board, to comment and he agreed to provide individual feedback. ” I am offering my comment as an individual. Also I am stipulating that you include the entire quote,” Dr. Gormanous wrote.
“The public hearing on rule making initiated by LSBEP served its purpose. Written comments were read into the record. The written comments were from many people who were attending virtually. LSBEP also requested oral comments from a member of the public who attended in person. When the hearing ended, the Board, being sensitive to public attendees, next devoted a substantial amount of time and discussed most of the comments. Those deliberations resulted in several important non-substantive tweaks,” he said.
The board appeared to ignore the requests to show evidence of a need for the new detailed oversight and management regulations for assistants, a problem voiced by many of those commenting.
Public comments also included details of managing assistants. According to VanGeffen, “The Board explained that the process of registering assistants will require an ‘administrative review’ and not full approval of the Board,” said VanGeffen. “Some people commented that the current wording of the Rules suggests that one would have to employ the person first before submitting the application for registration.” Also, “Currently the Rules require that the supervisor be “on site” while the assistant is performing services,” she noted. “There were a number of comments about how this is not consistent with the new Medicare guidelines […]. “There were questions about whether ATAPs who are currently employed would be “grandparented.'”
The new regulations effort stems from the 2021 House Bill 477, legislation put forth by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, now Act 238.
HB 477, 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 in 2021. 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.
According to the Notice of Intent, the proposed rule changes will increase revenue collections for the LSBEP by $21,000 for FY 23 and $18,050 in FY 24 and FY 25. The estimate is 420 assistants.
Also according to the Notice, the Board claims that benefits include a positive impact for licensed psychologists and also for competition.
“The proposed rule changes will benefit Licensed Psychologists by reducing their risks associated with hiring unqualified individuals to work with vulnerable populations…” And, “The proposed rule changes are anticipated to have a positive effect on competition and employment. Licensed Psychologists who utilize ATAP’s are able to serve a larger client base than if working independently.
Next, the Board is required to respond to all comments and submit a report to legislative oversight committees, House Committee on Health and Welfare and the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, according to the Administrative Procedures Act.
“The agency shall issue a response to comments and submissions describing the principal reasons for and against adoption of any amendments or changes suggested in the written or oral comments and submissions. In addition to the response to comments and submissions, the agency may prepare a preamble explaining the basis and rationale for the rule, identifying the data and evidence upon which the rule is based, and responding to comments and submissions. Such preamble and response to comments and submissions shall be furnished to the respective legislative oversight subcommittees […]
Also, “Prior to the adoption, amendment, or repeal of any rule or the adoption, increasing, or decreasing of any fee, the agency shall submit a report relative to such proposed rule change or fee adoption, increase, or decrease to the appropriate standing committees of the legislature and the presiding officers of the respective houses as provided in this Section. […]
This review is to include numerous items including: “(3) The specific citation of the enabling legislation purporting to authorize the adoption, amending, or repeal of the rule or purporting to authorize the adoption, increasing, or decreasing of the fee. […] ” (ii) A summary of all comments received by the agency, a copy of the agency’s response to the summarized comments, and a statement of any tentative or proposed action of the agency resulting from oral or written comments received.”
The oversight subcommittees determine among other things, whether the rule change or action on fees is in conformity with the intent and scope of the enabling legislation, and whether the rule change or action on fees is acceptable or unacceptable to the oversight subcommittee.
The public meeting was held December 16 and according to the Administrative Procedures Act was required to be at least 35 days after the notice was published. The Notice was published November 20, 2022. According to the Act, “Any hearing pursuant to the provisions of this Paragraph shall be held no earlier than thirty-five days and no later than forty days after the after the publication of the Louisiana Register in which the notice of the intended action appears.”