Senate revises appeals process for professional boards

There is good news and bad news if you are in one of the numerous professions licensed by the state, thanks to a bill passed by the Senate in a 14-10 roll call vote last week.

The bill would affect some 27 state occupational boards regulating everything from accountancy to veterinary medicine.

The good news is that it will be harder to file a complaint against you. The bill sets up a screening panel made up of members entirely from your profession, unlike the regulatory boards themselves that usually have at least one member representing the public or consumers.

The bill also sets up another regulatory board to handle appeals. This means that if you don’t like the board’s opinion, you don’t have to go to the Supreme Court.

If the bill passes, there could be as many as 81 boards, and all of these boards are going to add to the cost of a license, though it is not sure how much yet.

Republicans, led by Sen. Dick Green, R-Rochester, said such a system would screen out frivolous complaints. Opponents said that the existing boards can do that themselves. They add that there is no big problem with regulatory boards, so why set up this large bureaucracy to fix it.

“We have enough boards to cover all this as it is,” said Sen. Tom Eaton, R-Keene. “The system doesn’t seem to be broken.” The bill now heads over to the House.

In other Senate business affecting business last week:

• The Senate passed Senate Bill 267, which requires independent contractors to sign a form that lists new uniform criteria for everything from worker compensation to minimum wage laws. The company must keep these forms on record (the bill doesn’t say how long) as evidence that the contractors are not employees, and could be fined $2,500 for misrepresentation.
• It passed SB 273, which would require companies to offer reasonable accommodations for disabled workers. Federal law already requires this, but a state law would enable complaints to be handled in New Hampshire rather than at federal offices in Boston.
• It passed SB 369, which would require insurance companies to disclose to businesses – on a state-approved form – the reasons behind their rate increases.
• The Senate passed SB 314, which sets up renewable energy standards for utilities but takes out any penalty if the utilities didn’t meet them. – BOB SANDERS

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