By Executive Director Keith Kerns, Esq.
State Representative Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) recently introduced House Bill 213 into the Ohio General Assembly. HB 213 would require that all professional licenses be renewed on a biennial basis.
The bill would impact several regulated professions, including: auctioneers, pawn brokers, real estate agents and appraisers, sanitarians, hearing aid dealers, private investigators, nursing home administrators, contractors, dieticians, pharmacists and opticians and optometrists. Physicians, dentists and other health professionals currently renew on a biennial basis and are not included in the bill.
The bill would essentially bring all professions into alignment with a two-year renewal process, yet the benefit behind such a change appears unclear. In fact, the change could prove to be detrimental for licensees. A long gap between renewal periods carries several logistical challenges. Changes in practice location that are not properly recorded with the appropriate licensing agency may result in licensees failing to receive renewal notices. Additionally, licensees may simply forget when a license is to be renewed because of the amount of time between renewals.
Failing to renew a license can be a significant problem in some professions. For example, in the dental industry, which maintains a biennial renewal process, several hundred dentists would fail to renew their licenses every two years resulting in an automatic suspension from practice. Not only did this result in the dentists experiencing licensure discipline, it also caused some dentists to be canceled from insurance contracts because they did not maintain a license free from encumbrances. The problem was so significant that the legislature stepped in to create a grace period for renewals in dentistry.
In contrast, the annual licensure renewal process that exists for optometrists is a system that works. OOA members and others within the profession understand and comply with the current renewal process. In fact, the State Board of Optometry reports no significant problem with optometrists failing to renew licenses in a timely manner.
The State Board of Optometry operates at a high professional level within their operating budget and is well-equipped to perform the licensure renewal process on an annual basis. While there might be other professions and licensing boards for which biennial licensure may be helpful, in optometry there is no known benefit to the public, the licensees or the state.
The OOA has requested to have optometry removed from HB 213 and will continue to monitor the bill as it is debated in the legislature. Be sure to visit www.ooa.org to view the latest updates on HB 213 and other important legislative issues.