Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Moves to Control Professional Boards

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Baker moves to control professional boards

By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter May 11, 2016

BOSTON — Dozens of independent boards that regulate doctors, barbers, electrical workers and an array of other professionals could soon be pulled under the state’s umbrella — a move that trade groups complain smacks of government overreach.

Lawmakers are considering a bill filed by Gov. Charlie Baker to limit the independence of licensing boards and give the state the power to “review and veto” any action deemed to stifle competition.

The proposal responds to a U.S. Supreme Court opinion last year that boards controlled by members of the profession they regulate are not immune from antitrust lawsuits.

In that case, the court ruled that the state dental board in North Carolina had no protection from antitrust claims when it issued cease-and-desist orders to companies offering teeth-whitening services.

Baker administration officials say the ruling leaves licensing boards in Massachusetts vulnerable.

Even legal actions may be challenged, Mike Kaneb, Baker’s deputy legal counsel, told a legislative committee on Tuesday.

“Individual board members can be sued,” he added.
But exerting authority over the boards is also raising concerns.

Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, which represents about 75,000 skilled construction workers, said the state needs to address the issue but he’s concerned the governor’s proposal would give the state too much power over the boards.

Boards that oversee electricians and other skilled trades already have state oversight, to varying degrees, he noted, as well as lawyers to ensure their decisions comply with federal anti-trust laws.


Baker moves to control professional boards | News | 13/5/16 11:14 PM

Several representatives of trade groups opposed the proposal at the legislative hearing. Robert Butler, business manager for Sheet Metal Workers Local 17, called it a “solution to a nonexistent problem.”

“This bill would allow the state to make decisions without any public input or recourse,” he said.

Baker, a Republican, has promised to make the state more business- friendly, in part by cutting through red tape. In a statement, he said licensing rules and limits on professionals “have the effect of restraining trade and commerce” and are bad for business.

Donna Kelly-Williams, president of the Massachusetts Nurse’s Association, criticized his plan in comments to lawmakers.

“With this directive, it seems as though the governor would like to turn the Board of Registered Nurses and other similar boards into nothing more than vehicles to spur economic competition at the expense of the public health and safety,” she said.

Baker administration officials said that’s not the intent.

“The only motivation for the governor’s bill is to respond to the changes in law,” Kaneb said Tuesday.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, legislation to exert more control over independent licensing boards has been introduced in least six other states, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

In Massachusetts, the Division of Professional Licensure oversees 45 boards, which regulate more than 370,000 individuals and businesses in some 50 trades and professions.

Most board members are volunteers appointed the governor and operate independently from the state.

Baker signed an executive order last year directing the licensing division and other agencies to conduct monthly reviews of recent board decisions to determine if any violate federal laws.

Martin W. Healy, chief counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association, said the state must act quickly to comply with the Supreme Court ruling to ensure that its boards don’t face legal challenges.


Baker moves to control professional boards | News | 13/5/16 11:14 PM

“This is a major issue for the state that needs to be addressed quickly,” he said. “You would have a very difficult time attracting talented people to these positions if they could held personally liable for the board’s decisions.”

Christian Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for the North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.

MA – State Oversight of Professional Licensing Boards – annot


6 thoughts on “Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Moves to Control Professional Boards

  1. Instead of the govt., have patient boards hear challenges, allow them to dictate whether or not information is released to the patients/complaintents. We’d have a lot better medical boards AND the medical profession would clean up its act. Now just make the admin criminally liable for any decision they foist on a doctor without any medical research/justification (read profits over patients) and I’m sure you’d see quite the turnaround in attitude & errors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the posting Mike. I was aware of the NC Dental Examiners SCOTUS decision but I had failed to make the connection with state supervision of medical boards and PHP’s. The Colorado PHP and Colorado Medical Board currently operate without state supervision and appear to enjoy immunity from any type of scrutiny including civil discovery, CORA requests, and medical record requests in addition to legal immunity all while being populated by physicians in active practice who have stakes in maintaining many aspects of the profession’s status quo for many different reasons. However, I have some doubts about whether active state supervision is the answer as contrasted with just leaving open the possibility of anti-trust actions against these boards. The all-purpose counter-example is the State of Kansas,whose Governor “supervises” the medical board by appointing anti-abortion activists to its membership.

    In some cases, the professional boards have narrow areas of “turf” that they wish to defend and among the health professions, chiropractic and pharmacy boards come to mind as bodies particularly susceptible to anti-trust claims. My sense of the medical boards is that they lack “adult supervision” more than “state supervision”. The physician and public members of the boards can be likened to the most incurious of grand juries who are the creatures of permanent state agency staff and throngs of assistant attorneys general. Engineering moral panics is just job protection for the latter groups.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am not sure how much this would change things. My feeling pushed into retirement has become a good thing(in some ways). I went to my class reunion from UMMS1981 this weekend( never went to one before) and I must say that most looked very tired. Quite a commentary. I hope our polititians like Massachusetts with appointments for doctors 6 months away! Beth

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] Governor Baker’s recent move to control professional boards seemed a promising step and I provided detailed documentation to the Director of Constituent Services at the Office of the Commissioner for Public Health,  Helen Rush-Lloyd (   617-624-5223 ) who informed me on June 7 she would provide the name of the appropriate contact person to respond.  The email can be seen here: Physician Health and Compliance Unit.   Last I heard it was turfed to attorneys at the Board by whoever the appropriate contact person was and I have not been able to get a name.  As this too appears to be a dead-end it is important to find out who is responsible.  This is a system in which they often place their own people into positions where they can block, punt, deflect, dismiss and otherwise derail valid complaints.  For example they have a “point-person”on the Massachusetts Medical Society ethics committee who blocks valid complaints from ever reaching review.  They are turfed at the door and I would not be surprised if they placed one of their own or one of their apologists into this venue as well and this requires the provision of a name to see who is responsible and who should be held accountable. […]


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