December 8, 2020
The Joint Government Operations Committee made and passed a recommendation to extend the life of the TN Board of Dispensing Opticians for five (5) years. However, the legislators on the committee did ask that the licensing board address the reserve balance of $643,000 by looking at whether their fees should be reduced or maintained at the current level. They also voiced their displeasure regarding the consumer member vacancy that has existed since 2014. Keep in mind, the decision for a five year extension is merely a recommendation and is non-binding. The next step in the process for continuing the Board of Dispensing Opticians is for the House and the Senate to take up and vote on an actual bill that has to go through the House and Senate committee system in 2021.
Protecting Your Optical License (March 6, 2018)
The burden to prove that an Optical License is necessary to protect the public from harm lies on shoulders of the Licensed Dispensing Optician. To the Licensed Practitioner who experiences sub standard eye wear, complicated prescriptions, abuse of contact lenses and a multitude of other potentially dangerous circumstances to patients and consumers on a daily basis this is as apparent as someone needing a license to drive a car.
If we do not allow a non licensed driver on the road due to the apparent safety concerns then why would you trust someone without a license to fit and prepare something as essential as properly fabricated eye wear? The legislator or the lay person who questions this necessity, the answer is not quite so clear. The lawmakers are continuously bombarded by parties who would benefit by a deregulation of Optical Dispensing with arguments that call this necessity in to question.
As Optical Dispensers we often find our selves on the defensive side rather than the assertive side of this argument. How do we change this position?
Currently license mobility is a topic of discussion. The number of practitioners in most states do not number high enough to satisfy the corporate rate of expansion as they scramble to obtain their hefty slice of the baby boomer and millennial pie.
A movement toward license mobility has been proposed as a partial solution to this situation. Mobility itself is not a bad suggestion, many other healthcare professions have adopted a form of mobility to ease the burden of licensed practitioners. Optometry, nursing and a few others are examples of health care professions which have successfully been able to successfully adopt license mobility.
Mobility calls for an agreement on the standards among states on training and testing for licensure. Currently the spectrum of qualifications and training for practice and or licensure vary widely from state to state. This division on qualifications and training has left the industry vulnerable to those who would question the necessity of any standards or regulations. Sadly, the opportunity to call the necessity of licensure and regulation through state boards of Opticianry has been seized by one of the organizations proposing mobility.
Below is an excerpt from the opinion written by the NAOO (National Association of Optometrists and Opticians) to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation into license mobility. This organization represents big box optical chains and retailers. The document may be read in its entirety at this link https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_comments/2017/10/00033-141413.pdf.
Are there some occupations for which it would be better to reduce or eliminate licensing requirements, rather than develop an interstate licensure compact or model law to ease licensing requirements across state lines?
Yes, there are opportunities to reduce licensing requirements in both opticianry and optometry without harming the health, safety or welfare of the public.
States should not license an occupation unless there is clear and convincing evidence presented by the proponents of licensing that:
- -The unregulated practice of the occupation or profession clearly harms or endangers the health, safety or welfare of the public;
- -The potential for harm is easily recognizable and not remote or dependent on tenuous argument;
- -The public needs, and can be reasonably expected to benefit from, an assurance of initial and continuing professional or occupational competence; and
- -The public cannot be adequately protected by other means in a more cost- effective manner.
Additionally, states should look carefully at claims that licensing is necessary to “advance” or “develop” the profession seeking licensure. Too often, when there is no evidence of a public health, safety or financial welfare need for or benefit from licensure, these are code words for restricting supply to drive up income for the fortunate few who obtain licensure.
What factors would influence this analysis?
State legislatures and Boards should use sunrise and sunset reviews to establish burdens of proof and evidentiary standards that must be met by proponents of occupational licensing. State requirements for evidence of clear risk of systemic harm to the public should be based on similar standards that the FTC requires to substantiate health claims.
That is, the proponents of the licensing requirements should have evidence of- the risk of meaningful harm to a broad section of the public without licensing and
These principles are drawn from the Colorado Sunrise Act, §24-34-104.1, C.R.S. Other state Sunrise Acts and proposals use similar standards, e.g., Arizona (A.R.S. §§ 32-3101 through 32-3106 and 32-4401 through 32-4403)A health profession shall be regulated by this state only if:
- Unregulated practice can clearly harm or endanger the public, health safety or welfare and the potential for harm is easily recognizable and not remote or dependent on tenuous agreement;
- The public needs and can reasonable be expected to benefit from an assurance of initial and continuing professional ability; and
- The public cannot be effectively protected by other means in a more cost beneficial manner.
In response to this question each state may be called upon to justify the existence of a Board of Opticians to protect the public. As stated previously mobility is not a bad concept however, the state regulation and requirements of training must be such as they add value to being licensed and serve to the protection of the public. “On the job training” that is provided in many instances in a retail environment , can no longer serve as the only means of training of what is necessary to provide proper protection to the public from harm. As an industry we must endeavor to further substantiate our profession thru education while being mindful that achievement of licensure be obtainable in a timely manner. We must be cautious to not swing the pendulum of balance to heavy to either side.
We must make a stand when we see regulations broken. We can no longer afford the luxury of looking the other way or hiding in the shadows. Every regulation that is allowed to be broken without being brought to light negates the value of a license to protect the public from harm. Complaints may be made anonymously or with full disclosure but they must be made to protect the integrity of the profession. We can no longer use the excuse nothing will be done. To coin an old phrase” The squeaky wheel gets the oil” It is time to squeak. I encourage you if you are in a position that causes your professional integrity to be brought into question speak out. Your future livelihood may depend on your voice.
We must get involved at a state and national level. Write or visit your government officials. Let them know the importance of your profession to the protection of the public. Share your stories. Be proud call yourself a Licensed Dispensing Optician.
Legislative Update (March 6, 2018)
If you are receiving this update you may have chosen Opticianry as your endeavor to provide for your family. To not take notice of the challenges being faced concerning deregulation is to risk changes that will significantly impact your ability to continue to provide for them at an adequate level. I encourage you to take the time to read this in its entirety, check out the links and get involved.
As many of you have heard, there are significant legislative actions being taken both nationally and at the state level concerning Opticianry. The TDOA is always diligently working to stay aware of these changes and the possible impact they could have on your license. Currently as I type this update Arizona is facing deregulation of their Optician License.
The battle to deregulate is not a new one. Licensure and regulation has been under constant scrutiny for many years. Many of you remember in the recent past TN Opticians faced similar circumstances in our own state. The current battlefield over deregulation is expanding to the national level. On October 3,2017, an organization known as the NOAA (National Association of Optometrists and Opticians) submitted a letter of inquiry to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requesting this agency investigate- for the purpose of regulatory relief – all state Opticianry Licensure Laws where such laws exist. This letter can and should be reviewed by all Opticians.
While this inquiry addresses license mobility, which in itself sounds like a reasonable objective, many look at this as an attempt by large corporations to obtain a “cheap labor force”. Opinions are given that suggest there is not a necessity of State Licensing Boards to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.
Deregulation of any State could cause a “domino effect” which would lead to many other states choosing deregulation of their state boards. Under the present administration streamlining of government regulation is happening in many facets including health care. To take the “Ostrich approach” and bury ones’ head in the sand is exactly what big business desires you to do. As a Tennessee Licensed Optician, you may ask what can I do help prevent this from coming to reality in my state? This is where I take the opportunity to stress the importance of involvement in your state organization. The TDOA represents you as an optician in the state of Tennessee. We employ a legislative representative to both keep us informed and make our interests known to those in the government making decisions which effect opticianry as well as the health and welfare of the public.
We provide the continuing education that assists in the effort to prove that knowledge of how to deal with visual deficiencies is necessary to protect the public from harm and legitimize our profession. Come to the regular meetings, the board meetings, come to the CE hours, donate to the PAC fund just get involved in protecting your license. Outside of becoming a member of the TDOA I want to encourage each of you to attend the State Board meetings. The schedule for these meetings are posted on the state web site at www.tn.gov. If you don’t have time to attend a meeting view the live stream provided on the same website either in real time or after the meeting. There are currently proposed changes to your rules and regulations being discussed. You may or may not agree with these changes. This is the time to make your opinion known.
I will leave you with the old sailor adage “He who fails to heed the helm will soon heed the rocks”
Important Legislative Alert (November 2016)
Joint Message, NCOA State Board (click to open the document)
Important Message From The NCOA – Clarification of Upcoming Legislative Actions (April 2016)
On Tuesday April 5th, The Joint Legislative Administrative Procedures Oversite Committee (APO) will hear testimony regarding consolidation of the Board of Opticians into the Board of Optometry, as well as deliberation on other Occupational Boards under scrutiny. A copy of the draft bill is available by link below as well as other links to related legislation. The North Carolina State Board of Opticians as well as the North Carolina Opticians Association will have representation at that meeting.
While Senate Bill 525 will NOT be voted on Tuesday, Opticians still need to contact their representative from their legislative district and explain why the Opticians Board should remain an independent Board and how Licensed Opticians serve the public here in North Carolina. Explain to them why Senate Bill 525 should taken out of committee and be passed this legislative session to keep our Board strong and help fulfill its mandate to protect the public as has for over 50 years.
TDOA Legislative Update Summer 2015
Legislation (HB340 & SB221) extending the Tennessee Board of Dispensing Opticians sunset review until June 30, 2021 was passed in the House and Senate during the spring 2015 legislative session. The bills passed through most committees with unanimous votes because the Optician Board did not have any financial deficits, as was the case in the last sunset review, due to the increase in the license renewal fees. Communications to legislators stressing the importance of the licensed optician were also key in obtaining a positive vote.
TDOA officers, directors, and members along with Licensing Board members made numerous calls and emails to the senators and representatives in support of optician licensure and attended committee votes. Lobbyist Theo Morrison spoke directly with legislators on behalf of opticians and closely monitored the voting and legislative process. Thanks to the contributions of time and money (membership dues, PAC donations, etc) from the TDOA membership, even the opticians who are not members and do nothing in support of their own profession may continue to practice with a license in Tennessee until 2021!
The Political Action Committee for Opticians
What is OptiPAC?
The Tennessee Dispensing Opticians Association Political Action Committee (OptiPAC) is a non-partisan, voluntary, non-profit organization of the Tennessee Dispensing Opticians Association with membership open to all Tennessee opticians, their spouses, and other friends of the optical community. OptiPAC benefits the entire optical industry through political contributions to political candidates, provides the lawful means by which opticians can effectively express their views, and increases their political impact through a united, collective effort.
OptiPAC was organized in 1998 to encourage members of the optical profession to take a more active and organized role in government and governmental affairs. Opticians needed an organization through which they could participate more effectively in supporting political candidates who understand the interests of the optical business.
Additionally, OptiPAC was created to provide a forum for educating its members about state and national political activities affecting the optical industry. OptiPAC provides an effective way for members to become politically involved at both state and national levels.
Representation on this scale is essential if we are to establish and maintain the best environment for opticianry in Tennessee.
How does OptiPAC benefit me?
By joining with other Tennessee opticians, you create a constituency that represents your professional needs and concerns. Whether you are affiliated with a national chain or an independent operation, you cannot afford to ignore the effect that public policy makers have on the future of your business.
Only through collective political action can we ensure that our lawmakers hear the voice of the optical industry. These lawmakers are shaping the future of the financial services profession, and it is the professional responsibility of all members of the optical community to be involved in the political process.
Essentially, participation in OptiPAC represents your professional interest in:
- Maintaining a licensing structure regulated by the Tennessee Department of Health.
- A fair, competitive atmosphere within the optical services industry.
- A commitment to a high standard of opticianry in Tennessee.
- An interest in and the need to foster an ongoing dialogue between opticians and public policy makers.
How does OptiPAC decide which candidate to support?
Led by Theo Morrison, he and the PAC committee carefully review candidates for public office and make their decisions based upon several different factors. The primary factors that determine candidate support are:
- Input from local opticians regarding the candidate’s qualifications and background.
- Analysis of previous election returns to determine the partisan strength of a particular district.
- Input from the TDOA lobbyist and legal counsel regarding the candidate’s previous support of TDOA legislative objectives (this criteria is used only when one of the candidates is an incumbent).
- Most importantly, candidate support is based on the interest a candidate shares with the optical industry in providing licensed, high-quality, competitive optical services to Tennesseans.
How much should I contribute?
Tennessee OptiPAC depends upon personal contributions from individual opticians. Under state law, corporate donations are not permissible.
The following donor categories have been established to provide suggested giving levels and appropriate recognition of OptiPAC contributors:
Titan – Over $200
Diamond – $100-$200
Optician – $26-$99
Apprentice – $10-$25
All donors will receive recognition in publications and at TDOA conferences and conventions. In addition, OptiPAC plans to host a donor reception in conjunction with the Annual Convention, which may include a few surprises, like a guest appearance by a prominent elected official in the State of Tennessee.
Shouldn’t I give directly to the candidate of my choice?
Yes, you should, but don’t overlook the greater impact that you gain by pooling resources with your colleagues. One voice may speak loudly, but by pooling the resources of opticians statewide, legislators will hear a much louder and unified voice for a concentrated effect in key districts. OptiPAC provides the mechanism for a well-organized, effective effort that coordinates the collective interests of the optical industry in Tennessee.
Do I receive a tax benefit by giving to OptiPAC?
If you are a Tennessean, you are not eligible for a tax benefit. But you do receive the benefit of knowing that you are making a difference by helping to elect individuals who believe in the practice of opticianry.