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Licensing boards needed, panel says

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Tasked with increasing government efficiency and reducing state costs, a professional licensing review committee considered the elimination of some licensing boards altogether — or at least combining them to save money.

Instead, the Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee concluded Tuesday that separate and distinct oversight boards are required to meet the unique needs of individual professions.

"I am all for making government less onerous and removing some of the steps that come with bureaucracy," said Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper.

But instead of being convinced, at least in this instance, that a board that has met only once in four years is not useful, Hughes decided otherwise.

"If they decide they don't have to meet at all, they won't. That shows integrity, that they don't want to waste their time or taxpayers' money," he said.

Board members who operate in an advisory capacity to the state receive reimbursement when they meet — up to $60 for a half day or $90 for a full day — plus pay for mileage and parking.

In a measure sponsored by Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, in the 2003 Legislature, policymakers were asked to consider combining the functions of 17 advisory boards, or eliminating some if they duplicated efforts.

On Tuesday, committee members heard from representatives in the speech pathology, audiology and hearing instrument specialist fields, with the professionals asking that the associations' boards remain distinct.

While some of those boards have enough regulatory action going on in the profession to necessitate meeting four times a year for peer review purposes, others meet perhaps once, if that.

Stephenson's legislation, however, mandates that the review and licensure committee examine the viability of all 17 boards in time to present findings to a legislative interim committee by November.

The committee is also looking at modifying licensing requirements for certain professions, including occupational therapists, environment-

al health scientists and dieticians.

Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, said the boards need to represent more than just the "good old buddy system" and ensure the professions are functioning appropriately.

"The public needs to be able to look to that board for peer review," he said.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com