House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs

February 15, 2023

Rep Tosh: Come to order. Today’s agenda, we’ve set aside two special orders. The first special order for today will be House Bill 1359. For those of you that are in the audience. If you’re here to speak for or against this bill, there’s a signup sheet just outside the back door. The staff here will check that sheet periodically. We already have one sheet up here but be sure to sign up. I’ll also in the event that you fail to sign up, I’ll give you the opportunity to ask if anyone’s here that didn’t sign up that wants to speak for or against the bill, and you’ll be afforded that opportunity at that time. So no further business before we start our agenda. So at this point, Representative Cavenaugh is here. If you would just take a seat at the end of the table. I understand you have an amendment to your bill, is that correct? Just go ahead and identify yourself for the Committee.

Rep Cavenaugh: Representative Fran Cavenaugh, District 30.

Rep Tosh: Okay. Thank you, Representative. At this time though we’re going to distribute the amendment out to the Committee members. So give us just a second for the Committee to be able to have an opportunity to receive the amendment and have an opportunity to review it.

Committee members I’m sure have had plenty of time now to review the amendment. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized to present the amendment.

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Committee. This amendment just clarifies what the intent of this legislation is and to also make sure that there’s no misunderstanding about that the committee can actually have subcommittees that will create committees based on each category of professional specialty to make recommendations to the full licensing board regarding rulemaking, disciplinary issues, ethical complaints, and evaluation of applicants. That was one of the misunderstandings about this legislation and so I just wanted to make sure that there was clear intent what it was. And to make it even stronger we went in and actually put it in statute so that they would understand that it is part of the statute.

It also goes into the psychologists, the four psychologists on the board. And this was at the request of the psychologists is that three of them will be psychologists and one will be an LPE. It then goes in and it allows that social workers will have five members on the board. Counselors will have five members on the board also. And that is what the amendment is.

Rep Tosh: Representative Cavenaugh has presented the amendment. Any questions from Committee members concerning the amendment? Seeing none. We have a motion, Representative Wardlaw to adopt the amendment. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. Your amendment has been adopted. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re now recognized to present House Bill 1359, as amended.

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and Committee, again. This bill arose out of a mental health work group that we have for the last year been working. We had many providers come to us and talk about some issues that they were having with their licensing board and that’s really where this arose out of. And it also is going to help streamline some of the work at the Department of Health. And so that’s really what this bill– how it came about being developed.

I want to make sure we understand that this bill is very simple. It’s long but it’s long because we repeal a lot of language and then we put some language back in. This bill simply takes four boards and combines them into one. That is what the bill actually does. It does not change licensure requirement. It does not change standard requirement. It is not getting rid of any license. It is not adding any license. That is nothing that this bill does. I know that there is some talk about that’s what it does but that is not what it does.

The bill will go in and it creates the new board which is going to be called the Mental Health Professional. With the amendment that I have that you’ve been brought, it actually will show that what the intent is, is that each professional category will have subcommittees that will make recommendations to the big boards on their issues. And that’s really what the bill does. I know it looks long, it’s not that complicated. It’s just a lot of verbiage. But I’d be willing to take any questions.

Rep Tosh: Committee members, you received a handout. Give you a few minutes to review the handout and then we’ll open it up to any questions for Committee members. Committee members, you need any more time to review the handout? If not, then any questions from Committee members for Representative Cavenaugh? Representative Clowney, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Clowney: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Cavenaugh, can you talk a little bit about stakeholders who have asked for this or who you think will benefit from this? In other words, can you say a little bit more about why we’re doing this and how we think it will increase or improve services?

Rep Cavenaugh: Yes. We’ve had – as you were part of the workgroup – we had several meetings for about nine months, almost a year about how we can improve mental health in Arkansas. And one of the concerns that kept coming up to us in these meetings is that our licensure is slower, it’s harder to get licensures through. There was some concern about some of them not actually meeting and not being able to process licensures, and that actually came from providers. And that’s kind of where this emphasis came from. And it is just to kind of streamline the process.

Department of Health is neutral on this. Department of Human Services has said that this will not interfere with anybody that bills Medicaid or anything. This will have no bearing on it. Department of Health also states that they don’t see any reason why this should delay any type of licensure because that was one thing I was concerned about. And I had them to look at and they said they did not see any way it was going to really interfere with any type of licensure. And those were key things for me because I wanted to make sure first of all that we have the providers out there in this mental health crisis that we have. We’re not looking to eliminate any licensures. We’re actually just looking to make it easier to get more licensures.

Rep Tosh: Representative Beck, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Beck: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And I appreciate you bringing this bill. The question I had– and I’m trying to discern. Was there a particular group, you mentioned that it was brought to you by some people that were having some trouble with the licensure. Was there a particular subgroup of the four committees that maybe had more trouble than the others or did you collect data to that level?

Rep Cavenaugh: We didn’t really collect data. I can just tell you that we had concerns from all four boards. So it wasn’t just one group. I will say one group probably had more complaints and concerns than others but all four did have some issues and concerns that providers had.

Rep Beck: Quick follow up? 

Rep Tosh: Follow up.

Rep Beck: Which group was that that had more concerns?

Rep Cavenaugh: Social Worker Board.

Rep Beck: Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized. 

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Reading through the handout I wasn’t sure Representative Fran if you brought in or not I asked staff– or Representative Cavenaugh, sorry for that. And staff said that you did not bring the handout, so I’ll reserve those questions for someone else.

My question though is if the social board was giving the state so much issue with licensure and not processing licensure. Why would we combine all of them together and not just reappoint or reevaluate how that board operates if that’s the problem? And then if you don’t mind, expand on the other problems from the other boards, please.

Rep Cavenaugh: Yes, it wasn’t just the social worker. Representative Beck asked who had the most complaints, that’s who had the most complaints. We actually had complaints about similar from every board. That there was a delay in getting my licensure, they are not meeting. Some providers thought that they were dragging their feet on certain applications for different reasons. I mean, so there was a big variety of reasons why they thought that it was happening.

And we combined all four of them because if we’re going to go ahead and do some efficiencies in government, and we’re having an issue with multiple boards that do similar work. It just made sense from that standpoint to be able to combine four boards and make into one. And we wanted to make sure that we had representation on the board from all those parties involved.

Rep Tosh: Recognized.

Rep Wardlaw: So, if you look through the handout, on the fourth paragraph it talks about over the last 50 years of history. And it goes through other states that have done this and it talks about there’s very little savings and very little efficiencies because these four boards have different separate ethical codes, describing appropriate professional conduct. They have different treatment practices, different education, different training. So I guess my worry is by combining them and not addressing each board and their problem, that we may be creating a whole other list of problems. And like I said, I’m going to reserve some questions for whoever handed us this. But I just want to make sure we’re doing this right to address the issues that you’re having because we do have a problem in the state and we do need to address that problem.

Rep Cavenaugh: Well, I believe with the amendment that we made, it made it very clear that each one of these professional categories will have the ability to still oversee those things. They will be subcommittees of the actual licensure board. So they will still have that ability to be specialized toward whatever their profession is, and it doesn’t take that away from them.

Rep Wardlaw: Okay. Mr. Chair, I’ll reserve the rest of mine.

Rep Tosh: Representative Crawford, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Crawford: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And mine may have to go to the psychology board too but Representative Cavenaugh, one of the things that they say in here is that it produces cost savings. And it was my understanding that these are self-regulated, self-funded boards. So I’m confused with that. And with that, do you have a financial impact?

Rep Cavenaugh: I do not have a financial impact because what it is that they are fees but where it creates the savings for the actual state is when we’re not having to pay all the per diem for all the different board members. Then we don’t have to pay those every time they travel, it reduces that. But it also streamlines the process in the Department of Health.

Rep Crawford: Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Representative Moore, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Moore: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Cavenaugh, I was just curious do you have any numbers of how many licensures each of these boards produce every single year?

Rep Cavenaugh: If you combine them all together it’s probably between 8 to 10, could be a little bit more. I’d have to look at it but the psychologist license probably I think around 2,000. I think social worker and counselor both are probably around 5,000 each. And then the substance abuse counselor is less than 200. And those are the numbers that I remember from the workgroup.

Rep Tosh: Follow up?

Rep Moore: Followup.

Rep Tosh: You’re recognized.

Rep Moore: So if the main issue is streamlining the service. I’m curious as to the staff currently that would be underneath this board that would be able to manage all these applicants and licensures.

Rep Cavenaugh: We are transferring all personnel that currently exist on these boards to this new board. We are transferring fund balances to this new board, and we are transferring appropriation. So none of that goes away. So the people that have always been handling these licensures will be the ones that are handling these licensures.

Rep Moore: Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Representative Scott, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Scott: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Representative Fran, Cavenaugh, sorry. Quick question, as you know, we’ve received over maybe 150 emails about this bill. Is there any way, because I know we’ve shared some of the concerns that some of the people have sent us about the bill,  that you can address some of those concerns if you haven’t already addressed them in your opening?

But second question, follow up? I know one of the boards specifically had a layout for making sure or ensuring that there’s representation for minority groups and other groups. How will we ensure that or is that even addressed in the new makeup of what the new board looks like? And how did we come to?

Rep Tosh: You need?

Rep Scott: Yes. One more.

Rep Tosh: All right. Well, I’m not sure she’s answered the first two questions yet, Representative Scott but one question at a time. So what was your second question? Did you understand it, Representative Cavenaugh?

Rep Cavenaugh: Yes.

Rep Tosh: Okay, go ahead and answer it and then we’ll do a follow up.

Rep Cavenaugh: The language that you’re speaking about was inside the social worker. And actually, it had to be repealed because it’s turned out that that creates some unconstitutionality that we’re actually fighting right now. And so that language had to be taken out. It also had already been taken out of the other language for the other boards. And so that had to be taken out because of a constitutionality problem so that that was why that was taken out.

And addressing issues, I mean, a lot of this is fear. And I understand that because it is new, it’s different. And the goal here is not to penalize anybody. The goal here is to make it easier, make it more streamlined because, for all the people that we received emails from, we also didn’t receive the emails from the other ones that actually did have some concern about the way the boards were actually operating.

I’ll be honest with you, during the work group – and y’all know I’m pretty blatant and honest when it comes to it. We had providers that were afraid to come forward and say they had issues with the board because of retaliation. And so that’s just our attempt to address some of these issues. And with the amendment, I just wanted to make sure that the members and the providers felt comfortable that we were not trying to take away anything that was going to interfere with their difference in their standards, the difference in their conduct, none of that’s being changed. And with this to make sure with the intent of the law and actually put it in a statute, they can see that we’re not actually doing any of that. That they will still have the ability to do that.

Rep Tosh: Do you have a follow up?

Rep Scott: Just one more.

Rep Tosh: Okay, you’re recognized.

Rep Scott: One of the boards specifically addressed just representation from different groups. And so will there still be a way to ensure that there’s representation from different groups, whether that’s minority groups or other things that we address when we’re selecting these makeups, is there a process for this?

Rep Cavenaugh: They can do that in their rules. So this board has the ability to make their own rules on certain things. And that is something they certainly could address there.

Rep Scott: Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Representative Richmond, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Richmond: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Cavenaugh, we all recognize that there’s problems with the existing system, the existing boards that we have. But can you expand and help the Committee understand how combining these problems are going to help solve these problems?

Rep Cavenaugh: Well, I don’t necessarily think that’s combining problems to solve a problem. I think what it’s doing is taking some boards and actually streamlining the process, requiring to make sure that it’s easier to manage. That they are meeting when they’re supposed to be meeting. That they are having these, making sure they’re doing the evaluations and the disciplinary. All that being done through one board is much easier than having to do it through four boards.

Rep Richmond: Thank you, Representative Cavenaugh. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Rep Tosh: Seeing no further questions from Committee members. We have several people signed up to speak against the bill and not sure we got anybody to speak for the bill but we do have several against the bill. So this is again if you’re here signed up to speak against or for House Bill 1359. Jenny Reding, are you here? If you would, ma’am, just have a seat at the end of the table. If you would identify yourself, and who you represent for the Committee.

Reding: Yes, sir. I am Jenny Reding. I’m a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist and I’m the current president of the Arkansas Counseling Association.

Rep Tosh: Okay, on your signup sheet it didn’t say whether you’re speaking for or against the bill. So are you speaking against the bill?

Reding: Sir, as currently written, yes. Speaking against the bill.

Rep Tosh: Okay, so speaking against the bill. You’re recognized to speak against the bill.

Reding: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Committee members. Thank you, Chair. We just had a few questions and concerns that were submitted by some of the members of our Counseling Association that we wanted to bring. And particularly to Representative Cavenaugh and those bringing the bill. So one of the main themes that was submitted to us is especially the Emergency Clause that was a part of the bill. And the speed at which this is proposed to move is bringing concerns. And it’s actually hindering the various disciplines from being able to participate and being able to review and really come together and be a part of this.

So one of the things that we’re doing is maybe just asking for more time that we could get together and really discuss this. So one of the issues that we have is the Emergency Clause part of this. So as it’s been recognized, there are definitely some difficulties in Arkansas for addressing the mental health issues and being able to serve those with mental health issues. So we’re wondering first of all, why this is proposed to move so quickly.

Rep Tosh: Any questions from Committee members? Representative Richmond, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Richmond: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Yes ma’am, so are you saying that if the Emergency Clause was removed that you’d be okay with this?

Reding: Not the rest– thank you, that’s a great question. We’re not sure. That’s part of what it is that it’s proposed to move so quickly. Many people around the state have said they knew nothing about this before last Monday. So we really just need time to look through it, look through the language, look at what’s being proposed, and be able to get together and see what it is that we would like from the professionals that are in the field, we would like this to say. So that is part of it, the Emergency Clause. Yes, sir.

Rep Richmond: Follow up, Mr. Chair?

Rep Tosh: You’re recognized.

Rep Richmond: How long have you known about this bill?

Reding: Since last month. Oh, since last Tuesday. 

Rep Richmond: All right, thank you.

Rep Tosh: Seeing no further questions from Committee members. Thank you, ma’am, for your testimony. Next on today’s agenda to speak against the bill is Joanna Thomas. Ms. Thomas, if you would, just have a seat at the end of the table. Identify yourself to the Committee and who you represent, and you’re recognized to make a statement.

Thomas: Good morning, Committee. I’m Joanna Thomas. I hold an MSW and a Ph.D. in social work. I’m the past president of the National Association of Social Workers, Arkansas chapter. And I’m an LCSW, licensed certified social worker. Obviously, I’m here to speak against House Bill 1359. I did want to make some clarifying statements before I do the rest of my testimony. Just confirmed with our licensing board that we have never not met. Individuals can hold up the process when they don’t get their paperwork in on time and meet some of the requirements but our board does meet regularly.

I also wanted to clarify the numbers of licensed professionals. We have 4,248 social work professionals in the field who are licensed right now. Counseling has 3,387. I am not sure about psychologists. And it would appear there’s about 150 or so associates for the substance abuse counselors.

I want to thank Representatives Vaught and Cavenaugh and the mental health task force who worked so hard to address our shortage of mental health providers in Arkansas. This work is needed and it’s necessary. Our scope of practice for social workers is so much bigger than mental health. Yes, many LCSWs do practice and we provide direct mental health services but there are also LCSWs like me that do not practice in mental health at all. I teach social work students, provide field supervision, write grants for the community mental health centers and courts, and work with agencies to evaluate programming and services.

Having written and received over $40 million in grants for Arkansas agencies who provide mental health services, I understand the need for our professions to work together to provide these services. But I also know we already work in teams across professions to ensure Arkansans have access to highly qualified care providers when they receive their treatment. We are not as siloed as the bill would have people believe.

I also understand the shortage of mental health providers firsthand. I know how hard it can be to hire in our state. Just like every other state across the country, we have a shortage of providers. However, this bill does not bring mental health providers to the state. We don’t have a licensure crisis. This bill doesn’t reduce the cost of getting a license. It honestly doesn’t solve any of the issues it claims to be solving in the Emergency Clause. This bill, should it become law, would likely have the opposite effect, bottlenecking the licensure of more than 10,000 licensed mental health providers in our state. 

The way this bill is written, I as a trained social worker would be able to oversee the practice of psychologists and counselors. Bachelor level social workers could regulate the licenses of psychologists with PhDs. Bachelor level social workers don’t diagnose. They don’t provide direct therapeutic intervention. It just doesn’t make sense. I do not know enough to regulate the licenses of other professions. We have different scopes of practice. We have different code of ethics. We provide different services. It would be inappropriate for me to oversee the license of three other professions. It would be inappropriate for them to oversee our licensure.

Social work does not belong in the bill. Social work has more licensed professionals than the other professionals listed in this bill as I just talked about. Yet, we do not have an appropriate number of board members as this is currently proposed or with the amendment. It’s unclear as to why or how professions were given board representatives.

There are good models from other states. Texas has legislation that streamlines regulative processes of licensure but ensures we do not regulate one another. It’s called the Behavioral Health Legislative Council. It provides administrative support of these professions. It’s viable. It’s cost effective. It’s a model for licensing all behavioral health professionals. It leverages administrative and operational economies of scale through shared technology and infrastructure. It does not consolidate four licensing boards. It is not a rule making entity that imposes licensing and practice regulation for any professional. Because of the regulatory overreach of House Bill 1359, and the potential for bottlenecking the licensing process and losing vital mental health providers in our state. I am asking you to vote no on this bill or at least amend the bill to remove social work. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none, thank you for your testimony. Just as a reminder, if you’re signed up to speak against this bill, we have numerous, numerous folks that are signed up to speak against the bill. And if you can keep your comments brief and that way we’ll have an opportunity to hear testimony from as many as we can that are signed up. I want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to do that.

Also, if you’re standing, I got a note from the, I’m not sure who it’s from but they said the fire safety code may be in violation here. So if you’re a legislator, you can come up and sit at one of the empty seats at the table if you’re standing. And those of you standing probably need to find a seat or else I’ll have to ask you to step out of the room. And if some of you legislators are in a seat, if you would move to the table and make room for our guests, I would appreciate it.

While we’re doing that, Patricia Lashley, if you’re in the- if you would. And again remember what I said. I know you’ve got a lot to say and we want to hear it but if you could, we just don’t keep repeating ourself with the same points. I know it would be very helpful to the Committee as we move forward. So you’re recognized. Just identify yourself to the Committee, and you’re recognized.

Lashley: Thank you, Committee Chair. And thank you, Representatives. My name is Patricia Lashley. I’m an LPC, CSOTP, sexual offense treatment provider in the State of Arkansas and in private practice. I believe that the representative for the social work did an incredibly great job, as well as Ms. Jenny Reding in bringing the concerns to the board about Bill 1359. One of the biggest considerations that I would ask the members is to take a look at what exactly is going to be the cost efficacy in trying to make one board. Representative Cavenaugh, stated that the per diems would be diminished, and yet what is that cost? And if we’re going to have 17 members plus subcommittees, wouldn’t there be a reimbursement for those individuals? 

The Arkansas Counselors Licensing Board currently has 12 members and a director, and they meet once a month. The only time that I personally know that there has been any issues in our board having to overcome the licensing restrictions was during the COVID pandemic. And this is a free market issue. It is not one specific to the licensing board. That code of ethics, as well as the commingling and inefficiencies that it could cause, I see could be detrimental for Arkansans, including those in all four professions. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Thank you. Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony, we appreciate it. Also signed up to speak against the bill is Leslie– I’m sorry, Carol Moore. Ms. Carol Moore. Ms. Moore, if you would just have a seat at the end of the table. Identify yourself to the Committee. And again if you can keep your comments as brief as possible we would appreciate it. You’re recognized.

Moore: Thank you. My name is Carol Moore. I’m a licensed clinical social worker. I’m also an LADAC license under the substance abuse board. As you can see, and those of you that know, I do talk a lot. So I am going to cut. I had my tabs, so I’m not going to go there. But sir, Chair, and others, I appreciate the time and the patience that you’re putting into this and listening to our concerns.

I’m not going to re-speak what has been brought to you with our representative from NASW because she spoke very clearly and related extremely well to our concerns from the social work board. I am licensed under the two boards and have been since 1984 as a social worker. So I’m really old. And also many years under the substance abuse licensure board.

I cannot speak for the boards themselves, but I have seen the processes that they work under. There have not been issues with the substance abuse licensure board in regards to meeting nor licensing. As was spoken to earlier, at times, there are issues that come up and questions regarding applications for licensure. So that may take an extra month but those are normally handled in a quick fashion.

In my position on my job and in previous jobs I have worked with all four boards. I have supervised people from all four boards as a clinical director for 15 years for a very large organization that no longer exists. But also as a supervisor in corporate compliance, it’s my job now in my position to ensure that people are functioning under their board’s regulations, code of conduct, and everything else. I have made numerous complaints – not that I enjoy that at all – but numerous complaints to all boards in regards and with all but one have had no issues with quick responses.

I would like to speak to, which has not been spoken to the licensing board for substance abuse folks. Simply because nobody else has spoken to that and trying to put my quote, my thoughts together concisely for you all. There are a couple of issues written in this bill. On page 46, there is a statement that includes on line 3. Certified alcohol and drug abuse technicians. This is a position that has not existed under that board for many, many years. And if it is referring to the current CITs, or counselors in training, those are certified under the certification board, which is not a part of the substance abuse licensure board. So that position does not exist.

As well as, and I’m sorry, I’m trying to go through this very quickly. And those of you that have heard me speak before know my voice always shakes because you all make me very nervous. On page 50, line 22 regarding registered clinical supervisor. The licensure board, I do know had removed that. And I am not speaking for the licensure board. Let me make that very clear, I’m speaking in relationship to it. That had been removed from our language for more than one reason. It hindered licensure, the number of people that we could license that were extremely qualified. As well as the registered clinical supervisors are under the certification board and have nothing to do with the substance abuse licensure board. So therefore, the board that licenses us, their hands were tied in regards to having to fall under some clarification from a certification board that is not a state governor appointed, or state monitored board, so that language had also been removed.

I’m trying to skip as much as I possibly can. So there were some specific questions that have been brought to us in regards to the information in this bill and the writing of the bill. And we understand the concept, as I do as a licensed social worker and a licensed substance abuse provider. The questions are the social work board being so varied. Most of the complaints, and I sat on several of the committees that worked on this report that was provided, been very active in that. And numerous complaints were made regarding licensure and certain boards but they were all directed toward, I did not hear any complaints regarding the substance abuse licensure board or the social work licensure board. The social work profession, as varied as it is, they are not all mental health professionals. So, therefore, it makes absolutely no sense for them to have to be licensed under a mental health professional bill.

Our questions are, what is the problem? If one of the four boards, and our understanding was that yes, there may be complaints against all boards but the number of complaints were not mainly voiced against a social work board, it was another board. Which I’m not throwing anybody under the bus because I have great respect for all. What is the problem? How does this fix it? What studies, what fiscal impact studies have actually taken place? What impact studies have actually taken place on the timeliness of licensure and investigations?

Our concern in that is that with the reduced number there may be subcommittees under this, and I have not found anywhere where this new amendment has been made available. So I’ve not been able to read that. But when you have two representatives from substance abuse and it’s such a unique and important issue that our state and the nation is facing as a whole. When you have two people on that board that are related to that and others may not understand the difference in treatment, the difference in the people that we serve, even though they may, yes obviously, they have mental health issues but it’s such a different profession.

What is the impact? What studies have been done to study the impact of how these people will be approved for licensure? How quickly that will occur? Because we’ve gone from four meetings per month basically, to one meeting per month. With all of those seeking licensure and the nature of the impact of the timeliness of investigations. Complaints that may be made against the board itself or members of those boards. I have found all but one board to be very responsive in that in my position. And other than that, I’m not going to repeat what has already been so eloquently said. I certainly appreciate your time. We are not here to argue or stomp our feet. We’re here to express concern that this is being rushed. And especially with an Emergency Clause It does not allow for time for proper development, proper conversation, and proper involvement of all parties that are impacted. I appreciate you and thank you very much for your time.

Rep Tosh: Thank you, Ms. Moore. We appreciate your testimony. Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none. Let me remind you again those that are here to testify against the bill. If you’ve already heard someone before you that’s pretty well covered your points or what you wanted to cover, again I emphasize for you to be as brief as possible. The Committee wants to hear what you have to say but there are 11 people still signed up to speak against the bill. And we’re kind of limited on some time because we have other Committee meetings here before long. So take advantage of your opportunity at the end of the table, be as brief as possible, and remember, there’s 11 more to speak. At this time, I’ll recognize Ms. Leslie Chesshir.

Chesshir: Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Leslie Chesshir. I’m a small business owner and in private practice in Hot Springs Arkansas. I’m an LCSW. And I have just one point that I haven’t heard yet. Is within the language of the bill there is a full-time work requirement only for social work and the alcohol and drug abuse counselors. It’s five years full time to be able to serve on the board. And so I guess my question is with the unequal representation on the initial recommendation has been addressed but that part has not. And so I wanted just to express that over 60% of mental health professionals nationwide are social workers. And we have a large stake and we’re very well trained in doing clinical work and mental health practice. So I would challenge that language to only have a five year full time work requirement for social work and for CADCs.

Outside of that, I’ve never had an issue with a social work licensing board. I can reach out to Ruthie, the executive director and receive the response in minutes or sometimes a little bit longer depending on how busy she is. And outside of that, everything else has been eloquently stated by Dr. Thomas and everyone else. Thank you all for your time. I appreciate your consideration.

Rep Tosh: Ms. Chesshir, thank you for that testimony. I do have a question for you, ma’am. Sorry, Representative Vice-Chair McElroy has a question. You’re recognized.

Rep McElroy: You mentioned the unequal representation on the board. If it was equal representation on all the boards would you be happy with the bill then?

Chesshir: Hmm, not entirely is– I’m sorry, that’s my best response.

Rep McElroy: All right. Thank you, ma’am.

Chesshir: Yeah. Thank you, sir.

Rep Tosh: Seeing no further questions from Committee members. Next on the agenda to speak against the bill is Ms. Rebecca Evans. Dr. Evans. If you would just identify yourself to the Committee and who you represent. And you’re recognized for your testimony.

Evans: Thank you, Chairman Tosh. I’m Dr. Rebecca Evans, a psychologist in Jonesboro, Arkansas. And I’m a member of the Board of the Arkansas Psychological Association. Arkansas Psychological Association, representing psychology and psychologists in Arkansas opposes HB1359. Our opposition arises primarily from serious concerns about the potential for harm to consumers, as well as a failure of the bill to feasibly improve the efficiency and cost to Arkansas taxpayers.

Psychology is a doctoral level profession and as such, psychologists receive more education, training, and supervised experience than the other professions. And while there is some overlap among all our professions, especially in psychotherapy and counseling. Psychologists also provide unique services such as conducting neuropsychological evaluations that assess brain function. Serving in specialized medical settings with interventions for evaluating, and interventions for adult and pediatric populations. Evaluating patients who are seeking organ transplants to determine if they qualify for that procedure. Specific personality testing approaches such as projective assessment, and providing specific forensic and court-related services.

The language of this bill as you’ve heard would include 17 board members, and now with as amended, only three of those would be psychologists. Thus, the board’s membership would in most instances be asked to evaluate competence and ethical qualities of professional services without adequate knowledge of the practices and standards which should be applied. There is a potential for misjudgments that would raise the chances for harm to consumers or to practitioners who may be practicing appropriately but the board would have insufficient ability to make those judgments.

The psychology board, like all the other boards, uses annual licensing fees to pay its expenses. So there’s no financial justification for board consolidation. I believe they also meet often on Zoom meetings, which may impact the per diem issue. In fact, this new structure may conceivably cost more. Because of the reduced number of doctoral psychologists on the board, there would likely be a need for the board to hire consultants from time to time to assist when evaluating some of the very specialized areas of practice.

There have been other states who have consolidated mental health regulatory bodies and have found unintended consequences. Including extended times required to complete the licensing process, since larger boards may find it more problematic to meet at the frequency of our current psychology board, which is monthly. And they would need more time and study to assess issues of practice where there’s insufficient familiarity with each other’s professions.

In fact, two states, Colorado and New Hampshire that have experimented with consolidated boards, both reversed this decision and returned to separate psychology licensing boards. One of the main reasons for restoring the board in New Hampshire as a separate entity was a series of high profile discipline cases that were mishandled by a consolidated board and garnered negative press coverage for the state about the inadequate state of regulation of mental health in New Hampshire.

Because of these concerns, we ask this Committee to consider the many potential serious and unnecessary negative outcomes of passing the bill. We do appreciate the good intent of the legislation but we urge you to revisit the issue in determining how best to protect the health consumers of Arkansas. We are also happy to provide more information as needed. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Thank you, Dr. Evans. Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony. Next to speak against the bill is Rebecca Zimmerman. Ms. Zimmerman? (Crosstalk) I’m sorry, say that again. Oh, okay. Well, we’ll hold that for later. My apologies, I’m sorry. Yeah, well, I think we’ve got enough for this one. So I will pass over that. So okay, all right, Beth Rachlin, did I pronounce it properly? Representative– just a minute, ma’am. Representative Crawford, you have a question?

Rep Crawford: Yes. Mr. Chair, I was wondering if we could limit debate to 20 minutes for each side.

Rep Tosh: So your motion is to limit debate to 20 minutes?

Rep Crawford: Yes.

Rep Tosh: That is a non-debatable issue. All in favor of Representative Crawford’s motion to limit debate to 20 minutes for each side. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. Nos have it. We’ll continue with testimony. Ma’am, you’re recognized. Identify yourself for the Committee, and you’re recognized to give your testimony.

Rachlin: Thank you. My name is Beth Rachlin. Thank you, Mr. Chair, Committee members, and everybody who’s here today. There are a lot of eyeballs so I’m going to take a deep breath. Okay. So as I said, my name is Beth Rachlin. I recently earned my Master’s in mental health counseling. And I’m currently a graduate student in a Ph.D. counseling psychology program here in Arkansas. The general structure of a psychology Ph.D. program entails four years of classes, and then one year of off campus work dedicated to clinical work, and so we call this an internship. We are allowed to apply to internship sites in any state as long as the site is accredited by the APA or the American Psychological Association. Of note, is that oftentimes students’ internship sites result in job offers and the pursuit of licensure in the same state as the internship site.

The proposed bill is very concerning to me and many of my peers, as we do not feel comfortable nor compelled to pursue licensure in Arkansas if HB1359 passes. If this bill passes, I do not intend to apply for licensure here or internship and I know that many of my peers feel the same way. Arkansas currently struggles with a shortage of mental health professionals and passing this bill would make that problem worse. Through my time as both a master’s student and a doctoral student, I can say from first hand experience that the training, code of ethics, scope of practice, and just sheer exposure to clinical training is starkly different between these two levels. Combining the mental health boards would discourage budding professionals from establishing their roots in seeking licensure in Arkansas. In sum, I encourage you to genuinely take our pleas into consideration as your decision impacts the well being of Arkansas’s mental health. Thank you respectfully for your time.

Rep Tosh: Thank you for your testimony. Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none, again thank you. We appreciate your time. Next signed up to speak against the bill is Dr. Christopher Todd. Dr. Todd, if you would, just identify yourself for the Committee and who you represent.

Todd: Dr. Christopher Todd. I am assistant counseling professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Rep Tosh: Dr. Todd, I hate to interrupt you. One of the Committee members has a motion, I’m sorry. Representative Wardlaw, you have a motion?

Rep Wardlaw: Yes, sir.

Rep Tosh: You’re recognized.

Rep Wardlaw: I make a motion to limit debate to five minutes on each side.

Rep Tosh: I have a motion to limit debate to five minutes on each side. That’s a proper motion. It’s not debatable. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. Nos have it. We will continue. Dr. Todd, you’re recognized.

Todd: I’ll try not to take that personally. Dr. Christopher Todd. I am an assistant professor of counseling at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I am also the program coordinator for the counseling program. I am a certified rehabilitation counselor, a licensed school counselor, and I’m license eligible as a clinical mental health provider. I got a lot of stuff.

As has already been said by my learned colleagues. There are a number of concerns with this bill. We do have a lack of mental health professionals in the state. The issue, however, is not with getting people through the licensing process. The issue is we simply don’t pay enough as everyone knows, right? This bill is only going to serve to slow down further licensure when you, even if you’re combining the staffs from all the agencies, you’re still looking at over 10,000 licensures in a year. There’s no provision within the bill to solve this problem, none.

Another issue is for us as counselors. In the language of the bill, there’s a provision in there that says that people who can serve on the board as LPCs can also just be license eligible. Don’t have to be licensed, have to be license eligible. What does that mean? There’s nothing in the language that defines what license eligible is.

As a professor, I will tell you what it means. It means that someone could have gone through the educational requirements, graduate from a program, and taken the national counseling exam. They are now license eligible. I can be licensed. Does not mean I should be licensed but now I can sit on the board and determine licenses for people who are practicing, not just in my profession but in psychology, social work, addictions.

As my colleagues in social work have already said, they don’t want to have control over my license or my colleague’s license. I don’t want control over theirs either. I know a lot about what social work does, I don’t know enough. I know a lot about what psychologists do. I didn’t go to school to be a psychologist. I went to school to be a counselor and a counselor educator.

I would hope that this Committee would look around the room and see all the professionals here that have concerns about this bill A bill that while we all want to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money, this doesn’t accomplish. We all want to see our mental health providers expand in the state, this bill doesn’t do that. This bill simply consolidates boards. It looks good on paper. In actuality, it doesn’t do anything. I would urge you all to vote no on this bill. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Rep Tosh: Thank you. Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none. Appreciate your testimony. Next to speak against the bill is Theresa, is that Skinner? Did I pronounce that correctly?

Skinner: No, sir.

Rep Tosh: Help me out?

Skinner: It’s Therese Skinner.

Rep Tosh: Skinner. Okay.

Skinner: And I’m a licensed certified social worker in the State of Arkansas, a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Louisiana, and a licensed independent clinical social worker in the State of Washington. So I’ve been through several states’ certification processes. I am also a Linehan-certified DBT therapist. I’m the first native Arkansan to be certified in that. Probably doesn’t mean a lot to people here but it’s developed out of the University of Washington. The only way I was accepted into that were the letters behind my name, LCSW. I don’t have a doctorate, and social workers don’t need a doctorate to practice as we do. The information saying that the federal system, it doesn’t matter what the letters behind our names are. That’s not true, Medicare and LCSW is who provides the mental health practices.

I have my own practice about two blocks away from the capitol. I don’t advertise. I specialize in PTSD trauma and personality disorders, and in eating disorders. There’s less than 50 therapists in this world trained at my level. And I practice here in Arkansas because I love this state and my children are here.

In billing, it’s very important for insurance companies, for the federal system. We all go through what’s called CAQH, and so all of our licenses are ran through a national database. So if you switch up what letters are behind my name that will affect my licensure in other states. And in the end, what I will do is leave practice here in the State of Arkansas. And that’s just a decision on malpractice, on being able to obtain and keep the status I have with my colleagues that are national.

I attended ULR for graduate school and I chose social work. I could have done any graduate school. And my peers in the DBT world, they’re from Harvard, and Princeton, and Yale and we’re all the same. And there’s no difference from any of these individuals in this room or from you all. We all care about the people of the State of Arkansas.

In language that legislatures understand, I pay a lot of taxes. I pay my own payroll taxes, and I pay the state taxes. If I move to the State of Washington, I don’t have to pay income tax. And I don’t have to move my practice with virtual practices. So in going through with the State of Arkansas licensure, Ruthie Bain and my licensing board is excellent. I literally had to drive down to Baton Rouge after six months to get my licensure pushed through Louisiana. The State of Washington, I think they took my genetic code to get licensed up there. So I have no complaints. And I know our letters probably don’t mean a lot to you all, and I hope you never have to use my services. I’m an extremely intensive therapist. And what I do is very, very important to me. And I just ask with everything in me, please vote no on this. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony. Next signed up speak against the bill is Morgan–

Leyenberger: Leyenberger.

Rep Tosh: Thank you. Identify yourself for the Committee, and you’re recognized for your testimony.

Leyenberger: Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Committee. My name is Morgan Leyenberger, and I’m an LCSW. I won’t take much of your time. I am a social work educator, and so I just wanted to speak to the student experience. Our students have a really unique experience with our social work licensing board, in that the licensing board staff is available to the students. They come to talk to our students and to students around the state about the licensing process. Which means that our students are able to graduate with provisional licenses, and immediately upon graduation are able to enter the practice field. So this is a really important, and like I said, special relationship that our licensing board has. And I hate to think what added layers of bureaucracy would do to that relationship. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Thank you for your testimony. Any questions from Committee members? Seeing none, again thank you. Appreciate your time. Next recognized on the agenda to speak against the bill is Bill Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter? Committee members, we still have including Mr. Carpenter, four signed up to speak against the bill for your information. So Mr. Carpenter, identify yourself, you’re recognized to give your testimony.

Carpenter: My name is Bill Carpenter. I’m a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. I’m older. If you’re 50 years old or younger, I’m old enough to be your dad. I entered this field for a master’s degree when I was 59.

My daughter when she was 31 died of an opioid overdose. My former wife when she was 51 years old died of a fentanyl overdose. I only say those things to try and humanize the reality of where I’m coming from. I am against House Bill 1359. I’ve been living in a gut punch since last Tuesday when I heard about it. Oh, God, what’s going to happen? What does this mean for my supervisees. I’m a supervisor of 7 LAC, LAMFTs. What happens for them? I don’t know. One of the provisions in this bill is new. It’s on page 57. No one has mentioned this. It’s on page 57. It requires that LAMFTs, of which I am That they have at least 5 years, 5, 5 years, 5 to become an LMFT of clinical experience in practice of marriage and family therapy. That’s just one thing. One of my supervisees from California, rather, she’s an intern. She’s not even licensed yet. She’s contemplating going back to California, just like the last person said. Because in California the restrictive, constrictive requirements to get licensed. It’s not that we have a shortage. I don’t even know. Compared to other populations, it’s not that we don’t, we have a shortage. It’s that it is so hard to make a living as an associate licensed person. How would you like to be in business? Many of you are in business. You’re selling real estate. You’re selling cars. And the only way you can be in business if you can sell your car, your real estate, for cash. 

That is the case for associate licensed counselors and licensed associate marriage and family therapist. They have to find a way to private pay, or if they happen to be lucky enough to be in a practice that serves Medicaid. If they happen to be lucky enough in a practice that serves Medicaid and they’ve, that practice has figured out how to get them into the Medicaid system and seeing clients. I have 4 that are in 2 different practices. 3 in one practice; 1 in another practice. They’re able to take Medicaid. These 3, their client load is 4 to 5 sessions a week. Get certified, get fully licensed, accumulate 3,000 hours with that, 4 or 5 hours a week. The other one is in a practice that they figured it out from a Medicaid view point and she’s seeing 15 to 19 hours a week. Just really different. The challenge for me is not that, I can’t imagine. I agree with everything that’s been said. I can’t imagine folding these all up into one entity that looks exactly like the entity that existed and expect them to handle all of the requests that come in. I just can’t imagine that. 

Somewhere in my journey– I’m almost done. Somewhere in my journey somebody said, Bill, don’t ever come. Don’t ever bring me a problem, Bill, because reforms are needed. Reforms are needed. I had a supervisee that lost 6 months of her time because she didn’t remember, she forgot – she forgot. She forgot to submit her 6 month supervisor evaluation, and so did I. And when we realized it 6 months later, and when we filed that with the board, the board rules -these rules, these rules. 40 pages of single-spaced rules. These rules. The board has the option to, I don’t have the right words – the board has the option to make a decision what they’re going to do about this person and they take a punitive response. Look at the last 12 months of meeting agenda notes for the Arkansas– I can’t even think of my board’s name right now. I’m just so sad. They lost 6 months. Gut punch. I have to look at them. I forgot. They forgot. 6 months. How would you like for 6 months of your work to go unseen. 

Reforms are needed. Reforms are needed. So please forgive me, but I do have a recommendation. Somewhere along the way I was told, don’t bring a problem if you don’t bring a solution. Create a paid task force of not fully licensed, the not fully licensed and their supervisors from each of the 4 disciplines. Include representatives from colleges representing the 4 disciplines. Include out-of-state online colleges. Include representatives from the 4 boards. The tasks, research other state licensing program. In the very early days many years ago, we were a leader. Not anymore. There are restrictive, constringent requirements just to get fully licensed. Just to get licensed to begin with, oh my God. No. 2, we need to share, amongst ourselves, we need to share and compare and contrast the associate license journey to full licensure. That’s the ticket. That’s the bottleneck is what it takes to get fully licensed. I can’t charge for insurance until I’m fully licensed as an LPC, LMFT. We need to share what the differences are in between us. We need to come together and we need to find, does it really make sense for the ADC to require 6,000 hours. Does it really make sense? I don’t know if it does or not. I don’t know. Does it make sense for a social worker to require 4,000 hours? Does it make sense for the counselor, me, 3,000 hours? Communicate with therapists at large. Communicate with all of us. Post updates on each board’s website. Send out email updates to licensees. Post on the private Facebook pages dedicated to us professionals. Get consensus. Seek to understand each other and the challenges of becoming fully licensed. The challenge of becoming licensed to begin with, oh my God. And then the fully licensed, what it takes. Remove, reduce the road blocks. Build trust. This felt like I’ve carried in my body for a week.

Rep Tosh: Mr. Carpenter.

Carpenter: This has felt like a trust violation.

Rep Tosh: Dr. Carpenter, we still have a few other people signed up to speak. I wanted to give you as much opportunity.

Carpenter: Yes, sir. You’ve been a great—

Rep Tosh: –as I could, but if—

Carpenter: I apologize to the group.

Rep Tosh: –we’ve reached the point where we need to allow time for and we’re getting short on time and I want to make sure everybody has an opportunity.

Carpenter: Yes, sir. I apologize.

Rep Tosh: –to take any questions. Seeing none. Thank you, sir.

Carpenter: Yes.

Rep Tosh: Jeff Moore is next on the agenda to speak against the bill. Mr. Moore, if you would, just have a seat at the end of the table and identify yourself for the committee and you’re recognized.

Moore: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Committee members. My name is Jeff Moore. I’m a licensed associate counselor, licensed associate marriage and family therapist, in private practice here in Little Rock. I have a bit of a unique stance here. Most of these folks have covered very well the therapeutic and clinical implications of something like this and how it can impact those of us practitioners, clinics. And just in general the healthcare crisis, right, that’s referred to in the bill and the study that led to the bill. 

I think Representative Cavenaugh mentioned just the continuing efficiencies in state government is one portion of this. And, obviously, there are different facets of that, right? There’s a fiscal facet, which she addressed in terms of savings. Per diems for board members and those sorts of things and how those can begin to help the state government. Whether it’s the legislative branch here or the executive branch, or be more efficient and be more proficient, right. In being able to serve the constituents of the state because that’s kind of why we’re all here. That’s the one thing that binds us, I think, is that we all care about the people of Arkansas and that’s been stated so well by those before me. 

Like Representative Cavenaugh, and like the previous governor who pushed forward and we’re now realizing the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019. I don’t want to talk to you specifically from my place as a licensed associate counselor or a licensed associate marriage and family therapist and how this would, how this might impact the ability to provide excellent care for the people of the State of Arkansas. But I want to speak to you as someone who’s been in state government and has been on the front line of standing up a department and bringing together disparate groups together under a cabinet level secretary. And my role was on the executive team for the Department of Commerce and I served at the pleasure of the governor and with the Secretary of Commerce for those years where the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019 was implemented. 

I think that my biggest reservation, my greatest concern, is that these efforts, and this is someone who was in the middle of what we now know as the train wreck of shared services – and the efficiencies and the savings that were claimed to be better for the State of Arkansas. I’m not saying that there weren’t great things that came out of that bill and that transformation of our state, of our state government. But there was a lot of pain. And there were a lot, there were a lot of growing pains would be too conservative. But just to look at one word that keeps appearing in this bill is abolish, right? Abolish the Arkansas Board of Examiners and Counseling. Abolish the other 3. And stand up this other group and then roll these people up under that group. But not just roll them up. It’s like this Department of Commerce rolled up the Banking Department, the Department of Insurance, the Department of Waterways and Economic Development Commission. But, to abolish them, right? 

I sat upstairs here many, many, many hours with the Department of Banking, specifically, to understand their argument of how there needs to be autonomy. That we shouldn’t dissolve the walls of the Banking Department, the Department of Insurance or the Department of Waterways or Workforce Services, but that these need to remain autonomous. And there are a number of ways I could tell you, and I won’t waste your time. And I know everyone’s ready to put a wrap on this, but I would say that it was painful. It was a painful process. But as someone who was trying to implement the Transformation Efficiencies Act of 2019, that was trying to work with the secretary to stand up the Department of Commerce and try to bring together these disparate groups. There was need for autonomy, not to abolish them. And they fought hard for it because they’re very distinct. Although the Banking Department – if you talk to Director Susannah Marshall or Director Alan McClain from Department of Insurance – they would say, yes. Commerce– there’s a commonality there. But there are very distinct ways that they serve the State of Arkansas. And when you begin to homogenize that, when you begin to generalize that, you begin to break down the ability of those individual groups to adequately and exhaustively service those particular parts of statement government. Thank you so much.

Rep Tosh: Thank you, sir. Any questions from committee members? Seeing none. We have 2 more signed up to speak against the bill. Margaret, how do you pronounce her last name? 

Podkova: Podkova.

BLR Staff: Podkova.

Rep Tosh: Margaret, there you are. Thank you. Okay, and we are running short on time and I hate to, you know, ask you to keep your comments brief. But I’m trying to give everybody an opportunity. So we have one more after you. So you’re recognized for your testimony.

Podkova: Thank you. My name is Dr. Margaret Podkova. I am a licensed psychologist here in Arkansas. I’m also licensed in the State of Illinois. I have been working for the Social Security Disability Administration for the past 6 years. And I’m also in private practice doing forensic work. I’ll keep it very brief because all the points have already been made by all the eloquent speakers that came before me. But I do speak against this bill. I believe that this bill will do absolutely nothing to improve mental health services in the State of Arkansas. There is many different ways to do that and this bill simply is not one of them. For example, creation of more doctoral programs or mental health programs, internships, training with doctoral fellowships would invite more people into the state to come here and provide mental health services for the people in Arkansas. This bill will not do that. 

As far as the Arkansas Psychology Board and how it operates. I personally have never had issues with it. I believe that it is actually one of the simplest boards to get a license when it compares to other states. Many states require additional exams, oral exams or written exams to become licensed in the state and I do not believe Arkansas currently does that. So it is actually pretty simple if you have all your requirements to obtain a license. 

And, lastly, this point has also been made before me, but having a board where disciplines govern cross disciplines is not a great idea. Even though we are all under the umbrella of mental health professionals, we all have very different educational requirements. We all have very different specializations. We work with different populations. We provide very different services. Just like I would not want to be regulated by a social worker or a drug addiction counselor, I would not want to regulate them. I do not practice the work that they do and they do not practice the work that I do. I believe that each of those professions should regulate itself. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Thank you for your testimony. Questions from committee members? Seeing none. We have one last person signed up. Dr. Dawn Doray. Many of us on the Committee have to be at another committee meeting here in just a little bit, so again, I want you to be able to say what you need to say, but just keep that in mind, please. You’re recognized.

Doray: I will. Thank you. My name is Dr. Dawn Doray. I am a clinical psychologist licensed here in the State of Arkansas since 2004. I also practice in many varied areas with my license. I practice therapy with children and adolescents, our most vulnerable population in regards to child maltreatment issues, trauma, grief and loss, exposure to domestic violence and interpersonal violence. As well as high conflict divorce cases. I am one of the few psychologists in the State of Arkansas that conducts psychological evaluations and child custody evaluations in domestic relation courts. These are highly specific areas of training. I would find it very difficult to bring in other psychologists if they’re going to be regulated by other professions who do not have the experience or the expertise to do this work.

I’m very clear that the concerns are about providing services to our citizens. This is a very vulnerable population when we’re talking about mental health issues regarding both children and adolescents and adults. Therefore, I believe it’s very detrimental to ask other professions to be able to regulate my profession as well as I would not want to regulate their professions. We all have different ethical codes that we have to abide by. I do implore that you research some more on this because my licensure and my ability to obtain professional liability insurance may be impacted by this bill. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Thank you for your testimony. Any questions from committee members? Seeing none. Seeing no one else signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Cavenaugh. Representative Cavenaugh, you’re recognized to close with your bill as it was amended.

Rep Cavenaugh: Thank you, Mr. Chair. First of all, thank y’all for listening to all the testimony. It is important to hear all sides. But I just want to clear up some misunderstanding that has been spoken. There is no new language that doesn’t already exist in their statute. We’re not adding new requirements for 5 years. We’re not adding new requirements for hours before you get your licensure. We’re not changing the letters behind your name. We’re not doing any of that. This bill does not address any of that.

The language in the bill is what is currently in their statute. All we did was transfer it to the new board. We didn’t add any new requirements for anybody to be licensed. That’s not our goal. Honestly, I agree with the gentleman. We need to make it easier. But I can’t do that in this bill. This bill is just to combine the boards and so I left the language as it existed. Talking about the language for things that don’t exist anymore, they may not exist in the board the way they’re doing business now, but they still exist in the statute. And that’s why they’re there. Why the emergency clause? Because it coincides with the new fiscal year that will be starting January 1, 2023. 

I want to make sure they understand how we made the board up. The board originally started out with 4 members from each field. When that came out, I heard from everybody on the board explaining to me why that wasn’t fair. And why a social worker, you know, licensed more so they should have more representation. Counselors were the same. And so then we came up with the idea based upon the number of licensures that you would have those seats on the board. One thing one person has forgot, that we all forgot to leave out is that this board does also have one lay person on it. So that’s why it’s a 17 board member. So we have somebody, a lay person, that will actually be on the board. 

This is not a new idea that’s been floated around. For the last year, we have been speaking in public meetings about this desire. It is not something that just happened. This has been a year working. Again, I just want to say that no new language has been created for licensure. The only thing we did was take out the unconstitutional language that appeared in the social work licensure. Because there was no need to put unconstitutional language in. And that’s all that we did there. One thing I want to bring out, we talk about rates. As this work group went on, we did raise rates that you’d get paid through Medicaid. We made it easier for providers to bill Medicaid. We made it available for more people to be on Medicaid. So we have been working on these issues as we go forward. And we will continue to work on that. This is just one step to help streamline the process and I understand all the fears. But, again, I want to say. It was never our intention to make it harder. It is not our intention to make it a bottle neck to get licensure. That’s why we verified with the Department of Health that they saw no need, that this was not going to slow down licensure. We’re not going to mess with anybody’s ability to bill anyone. We’re not changing your licensure. We’re not changing the letters as you said behind your name. We’re not doing any of that. And with that, I will just ask for a good vote.

Rep Tosh: Committee members, Representative Cavenaugh has closed for the bill. What’s the pleasure of the committee? Representative Bentley, you’re recognized.

Rep Bentley: I’d like to make a motion do pass.

Rep Tosh: We have a motion do pass as amended.

Rep Bentley: As amended.

Rep Tosh: Okay. A recommendation of do pass as amended. Any discussion on the motion? Representative Crawford, you’re recognized for discussion on the motion.

Rep Crawford: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think we’ve sat here and listened to the impact that people believe this would have in their professional careers. I think we need to listen to that. I think we need to realize that we are not experts in mental health. But the people we’ve heard today are. And some of the people have texted me and said that if this was going on for a year, they didn’t know it. They were blindsided. So I would ask for a no vote to protect mental health in Arkansas until we can come up with something everyone agrees with. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Representative Crawford has spoken on the motion. Any other discussion? Representative Bentley, you made the motion.

Rep Bentley: Can I have a discussion in response to that or no?

Rep Tosh: Are you going to speak, not to that you can’t. You can speak on the motion.

Rep Bentley: Yeah, I’m going to speak on the motion.

Rep Tosh: Speak on the motion.

Rep Bentley: Yeah, and I just think it’s a good. I think it’s good for mental health moving forward. I think it’s a good chance for us all to work together to improve mental health in our state and that’s why I did a do pass. Thank you.

Rep Tosh: Representative Bentley has spoken on her own motion. Any other discussion on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye? All opposed say no. The no’s have it. The bill has failed. (Loud applause) Have order. The Chair won’t allow any type of outburst. I appreciate your respect for that. Committee members, we still have another item on the agenda. Let’s let the room clear out and we need to try to get another item off of this special order. Hang with me just a second. Committee members, there’s a handout coming around for our next special order. It’s 1307. House Bill 1307. Take a quick look at that. I know we’ve got some members that need to be somewhere here in about 15 minutes. So take a quick look. 

Okay, just a second. Let those leave the room so we can move forward with this other bill. Brandt, Brandt Smith, would you clear that doorway back there for me. We need to move forward with this other bill. There’s too much noise coming from the back of the room. Committee members, you should have the handout in front of you and should have had time to maybe review it. This is our second special order on today’s agenda. It’s House Bill 1307. This is Representative Wardlaw. Currently we have no one signed up to speak for or against the bill. If you are in the room and you’re here and you failed to sign up to speak for or against it, you need to let staff know at this time. If not, Representative.

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you, Mr. Chair. 

Rep Tosh: Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized to present your bill.

Rep Wardlaw: I’ll make this very easy, I hope. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Committee, for hearing me today. I know we’re pushing on time. It’s a bill we’ve been working on for almost a year now. We’ve met with most of the stakeholders involved in the bill. All have came to neutrality and agreement and we’re here. And I’ll be happy to take any questions. Basically, this bill just says you can’t discriminate against the firearm industry, the ammunition industry, or the fossil fuel industry in Arkansas. If you do, we won’t put any state dollars into your business. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Rep Tosh: Any questions from Committee members, Representative Clowney, you’re recognized.

Rep.Clowney: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Representative Wardlaw, I know that this is something that’s happened in a lot of other states and a lot of other states have found that it’s going to cost those states billions of dollars. Indiana said $6.7 was the estimated cost. Kentucky, $10.8 billion. Texas, $532 million. Have you done a similar analysis for what this do to Arkansas investments? And, if so, what was the outcome of that?

Rep Wardlaw: If you go, I don’t remember the exact page number of the bill, but we exempted the indirect holdings, trying to avoid some of that major hit. So we worked with our retirement folks to come to that conclusion. So I think we’ve minimized the way that it would hit Arkansas. But we also want to make sure that we’re following our beliefs in the state and making sure that we’re ensuring that nobody’s discriminating against the industries that are important to Arkansas. 

Rep Tosh: Any further questions from Committee members? Seeing none. No one signed up to speak for or against the bill. Representative Wardlaw, you’re recognized to close for the bill. 

Rep Wardlaw: I’m closed for my bill and I make a motion do pass.

Rep Tosh: Representative Wardlaw has closed with his bill. He has a motion of do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. The ayes have it. Congratulations, your bill is passed.

Rep Wardlaw: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and Committee. Mr. Chair, you want me to go ahead and knock out this statute bill real quick?

Rep Tosh: Would that be House Bill 1381?

Rep Wardlaw:  Yes, sir.

Rep Tosh:  We’ve got just a few minutes unless there’s going to be a lot of testimony for or against it.

Rep Wardlaw:  We can do it.

Rep Tosh:  All right. We’ll start it and see how it goes. You’re recognized.

Rep Wardlaw: Mr. Chair, a few years ago, we passed a bill in here. I was a sponsor. Senator Wallace was the senate sponsor to re-do our statues in Statuary Hall in DC. We failed to include an avenue to get our old statues home. That’s all this bill does is brings them home and puts them in a cemetery. We’re all in agreement. No big deal. Appreciate a good vote.

Rep Tosh: Any question from Committee members? Representative Jean, you’re recognized for a question.

Rep Jean:  What is the cost of bring those statues home?

Rep Tosh: Identify yourself for the Committee, and you’re recognized to answer the question.

Rep Wardlaw:  Just identify yourself.

Broadway: Shane Broadway. I’m Chairman of the National Statuary Hall Steering Committee. 

Rep Wardlaw: In the original bill, we put that there was no cost to the taxpayers. It’s all by donations and donations will cover this as well.

Rep Jean: With private funds?

Broadway: Private funds, yes, sir.

Rep Jean:  Thank you.

Broadway: All included in the contract we have with the artists. 

Rep Wardlaw: It’s hard to hold Broadway back, I just want you all to know. [laughter]

Rep Tosh:  Any further questions from Committee members? Seeing none. No one is signed up to speak for or against the bill.

Rep Wardlaw:  Just Broadway, and he’s good.

Rep Tosh: Well he never signed up.

Broadway: A little help on the voice vote.

Rep Tosh:  Okay. Representative Wardlaw, you closed?

Rep Wardlaw: I’m closed and I make a motion do pass.

Rep Tosh: Representative Wardlaw has closed for the motion of do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Seeing none. All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. The ayes have it. Congratulations, your bill has passed. Committee members, we do have another bill. I had someone signed up. I don’t know how far she had to travel. What’s that?

BLR Staff: She’s across the street.

Rep Tosh: Okay. So we’re okay? All right. Anyway, so, well, I knew I called her name inadvertently earlier and I didn’t want them, you know, I didn’t know how far they’d traveled. I wanted to give them the opportunity to see if we need to run it. So we’ll pass that to next week’s agenda. You can inform them of that. Colleagues, I know a lot of you got other meetings to attend and we need to be there. So without any further business before Committee, this Committee meeting is adjourned.