Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Arkansas Legislative Council – Joint Budget Committee: Protecting Taxpayers from Unregistered Interior Designers

Today, the Tolbert Report begins coverage of Arkansas legislative committee meetings. I believe that the real work of the legislature takes place in these meetings often with very little attention. If a bill is returned by a committee with a recommendation of “Do Pass,” then it usually passes with little attention discussion. I hope to report on the what happens within the committee halls, particularly this Spring when the legislature is in session.

The Arkansas Legislative Council – Joint Budget Committee is currently in meetings to hear from the agency heads regarding their funding for the upcoming budget. If I understand correctly, the 2009 legislative session will pass the budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, so these hearings deal with the agency funding for these future years. Today's meeting was largely as scheduled with few questions as the various agency heads presented their budgets. The two exceptions came during the presentations from the Interior Designers Board and the Social Work Licensing Board.

Rep. Dan Greenberg brought a bit of excitement in his questioning of Cynthia Hawkins of the Interior Designers Board. Greenberg quizzed Hawkins as to the need and purpose for this agency, and even inspired four or five other legislatures to chime in with questions of their own. Hawkins stated that the agency protects the public by ensuring that there are trained interior designers which are required to meet minimum education requirements of six years of post-secondary education, to take such continuing education courses as “color psychology,” and pay the Board an annual registration fee. Interior designers can practice in Arkansas without being registered but they cannot hold themselves out as “Registered Interior Designers” unless they are registered with the Board. Greenberg inquired as to how many complaints the Board has handled to which Hawkins replied that in their thirteen year existence they have efficiently handled a total of one compliant. Wow, what a great use of taxpayer funds!

There was also a bit of discussion during the presentation from Sandra Taylor on the Social Work Licensing Board. I had a bit of trouble completely following this but it apparently Board members themselves are conducting some of the investigation of the complaints received about licensees as there was not adequate funding to pay for third party investigators. The committee suggested sending the agency’s funding request back for further study to see if additional funding was needed to provide for investigators who were not Board members.

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