Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed reorganization of dozens of medical and professional boards that oversee licensing of more than 100,000 professionals in Kentucky has been delayed, state officials told boards this week.
Officials with the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet had previously told leaders of 39 boards that Bevin planned to sign an executive order, possibly as early as July 1, that would dramatically change how the boards operate.
But several boards and professional associations received an email from a Cabinet for Public Protection official Wednesday saying the planned reorganization will not occur on July 1, “and a new effective date has not been established.”
“PPC (Public Protection Cabinet) continues to fine tune the reorganization plan and will share information as it is available,” wrote Elizabeth Kuhn, the executive director of communications for the cabinet.
Kuhn confirmed Friday that the delay affects all 39 boards.
Those boards include the Kentucky Board of Nursing, the Kentucky State Board of Medical Licensure, the Kentucky Board of Social Work, the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy and boards that oversee dentistry, podiatry, prosthetics, funeral directors, architects and accountants.
“The Public Protection Cabinet continues to work with the individual boards, stakeholders, and legislators to receive feedback regarding this process and looks forward to proceeding with the proposed reorganization, which will benefit our state’s licensed professionals,” Kuhn said in a statement to the Herald-Leader.
The delay comes after Attorney General Andy Beshear said earlier this week he would challenge Bevin’s authority to reorganize the boards. Beshear filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Franklin Circuit Court challenging Bevin’s authority to dissolve and reappoint several education boards. It was the fourth lawsuit Beshear has filed against Bevin.
Under the proposed reorganization, the number of members on most boards would be cut to five, according to cabinet documents that were presented to lawmakers or affected professional groups. Also, executive directors appointed by the governor would have authority to veto or overturn licensure and disciplinary decisions and they would have final say on state regulations for those professional groups. In many cases, one director would oversee several boards.
Some of the professional groups regulated by those professional boards said they were concerned that the restructuring could create delays in issuing licenses and the resolution of complaints. Others said they were concerned that boards may lose control over the board’s budgets. Money used to fund the boards and their staff come from member fees, not taxpayer dollars.
Cabinet officials have said that merit employees working for the boards would become part of the Public Protection Cabinet. It’s not clear what would happen to the non-merit employees, who can be fired at any time, who work for the boards.
In her email sent to boards, Kuhn said they should proceed with “operations as normal and board personnel staff shall continue to report to their current work stations.”
Cabinet officials have told legislators and board members that the changes are necessary following a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision against a North Carolina dental board that had sent cease and desist orders to anyone who was not a dentist who offered teeth whitening services in that state.
Kentucky’s professional boards now need executive-branch oversight in order to avoid similar anti-trust lawsuits, cabinet officials have said.