Passage of SB 1951 Preserves Board through June 2005
By Editorial Staff
When California Governor Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 1943 into law on September 23, increasing curriculum hours for students and placing educational standards on acupuncture training programs, he gave his approval to an important piece of legislation that was based in part from recommendations made by the California Acupuncture Board (CAB).
Just a few days earlier, on September 19, Governor Davis made an equally momentous decision when he approved legislation that extended the life of the Acupuncture Board itself. Senate Bill 1951, introduced by Senator Liz Figueroa and supported by a bipartisan group of legislators, extends the inoperative and repeal dates of the Board for two more years. In addition, it imposes new disciplinary actions on acupuncturists who violate the law; mandates that one CAB member be a faculty member of a Board-approved college; and requires the Board to conduct several studies and reviews of issues related to the profession.
Analysis of SB 1951
The California Acupuncture Board was one of several state regulatory agencies reviewed by the California Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee (JLSRC), of which Senator Figueroa is chair. Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 1951, existing laws stipulated that the board would be rendered inoperable on July 1, 2003, and be dissolved, or "repealed," on January 1, 2004. Senator Figueroa's bill extends those dates to July 1, 2005 and January 1, 2006, respectively. The bill also leaves open the possibility for future laws that could extend the inoperative or repeal dates, or delete them from the state's Business and Professions Code entirely.
Other points of interest:
A provision in SB 1951 alters the structure of the Acupuncture Board's membership. The board will still consist of nine members, four of whom "shall be acupuncturists with at least five years of experience" who are "not licensed as physicians and surgeons." Under the new provision, one of the four acupuncturist members "shall be a licensed acupuncturist who is also a faculty member of any board approved acupuncture college." The governor is responsible for appointing the acupuncturist members, who must be confirmed by the state Senate before they can serve.
Previous law mandated that a "majority" of appointed board members be present at a board meeting to constitute a quorum to conduct business. An amendment in SB 1951 changes the law to five members, with an affirmative vote from the majority of those members present at a meeting needed to take any action or pass any motion.
Another regulation in the bill requires the board to conduct two studies and report its findings and recommendations to the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee no later than September 1, 2004. The studies will concern the following:
The use of unlicensed acupuncture assistants and the need to license and regulate such assistants; and
Ways to improve the frequency and consistency of the board's auditing procedures and the quality and relevance of their courses.
The bill also charges the Milton Marks Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy, better known as the "Little Hoover" Commission, with conducting an analysis of the profession and reporting their findings to the Legislature by September 1, 2004. Specifically, SB 1951 requests that the Little Hoover Commission:
Review and make recommendations on the scope of practice of acupuncturists;
Review and make recommendations on the educational requirements for acupuncturists;
Evaluate the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's (NCCAOM) national certification exam and make recommendations as to whether the NCCAOM's exam should be offered in California as part of, or as a replacement for, the state examination; and
Evaluate and make recommendations on the approval process of the California Acupuncture Board, the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, and the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.
To subsidize some of the costs associated with the Little Hoover Commission study, SB 1951 appropriates $250,000 to the CAB from the Acupuncture Fund. However, the board will be ultimately responsible for paying all of the costs associated with the commission's analysis.
Several sections of the Business and Professions Code have been amended to allow the board to take disciplinary action against acupuncturists. For example, the board may deny, suspend, revoke, or place on probation the license of any acupuncturist found guilty of "unprofessional conduct," which includes the following:
Violation of any law or ordinance on an acupuncturist's business premises by an acupuncturist's employee, or a person working under the acupuncturist's professional license, that is related to the acupuncturist's professional duties;
Abandoning a patient without notifying the patient in writing that treatment is to be discontinued and before the patient has had a reasonable chance to secure the services of another practitioner; and
Committing a fraudulent or dishonest act as an acupuncturist.
The CAB may also deny, suspend or revoke an acupuncturist's license if the practitioner is found guilty of altering or modifying a patient's medical records; creating a false medical record; or failing to maintain adequate and accurate patient records.
Senate Bill was introduced by Senator Figueroa on February 22, where it was scrutinized by three Senate committees before finally making it to the Senate floor. It passed the Senate 33-3 on May 28, then went through a second round of amendments in the Assembly. As in the Senate, SB 1951 was reviewed by three committees in the Assembly. The final version was passed unanimously by the Assembly 80-0 on August 27, then sent back to the Senate, where it was re-approved 33-3 and sent to Governor Davis for his signature.
The full text of Senate Bill 1951, along with a history of the legislation and analyses by the Senate and Assembly, is available online at www.leginfo.ca.gov. To access the bill, click the "Bill Information" button, then enter SB 1951 in the "Bill Number" field.
Your Feedback Wanted
What effect do you think SB 1951 will have on the profession? We would like to hear from you. If you have a comment or concern about the bill, please contact us by fax or e-mail. Please submit your comments to us by January 15, 2003. Responses to this article, along with those to the November article on AB 1943, will be printed in an upcoming issue of Acupuncture Today.