Legislation aims to ensure transparency, full vetting and public input regarding guides to practice for all licensed professions in Tennessee

Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Chairman Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Representative Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) held a press conference today to announce the introduction of new legislation to ensure transparency, full vetting and public input regarding “guides to practice” for all licensed professions in Tennessee.

Guides to practice include the professions’ codes of ethics, voluntary certification programs and other professional measures that establish service quality standards in Tennessee.

Johnson said as a result of the proposed legislation, he will not pursue passage of Senate Bill 1 that would have required the State Board of Professional Counselors to promulgate their own code of ethics to be used for licensure requirements.  Presently, the state automatically accepts the code of ethics from a private organization headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

“This legislation is a better approach which treats all professionals equally,” said Sen. Johnson.  “It ensures that transparency and public input are part of the process and provides that Tennesseans are in charge of the rules and code of ethics that govern all of our professions.  I am happy to join Senator Bell and Representative Howell as a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 449.”

Senate Bill 449 requires all professions which adopt guides to practice to promulgate rules subject to the state’s Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA).  Any rules or code of ethics developed or approved by a private organization or association must be adopted in accordance with the proposed law.  The bill also prescribes that guides to practice changes must be adopted in accordance with UAPA procedures.

Sen. Bell added, “This legislation treats everyone fairly. It not only ensures that Tennesseans are responsible for governing our own professions, but that the rules or code of ethics are fully vetted and that Tennesseans have an opportunity to weigh in on the rules that govern them.  The vetting includes a review by the State Attorney General.”

Rep. Howell said, “The focus of this bill is to simply ensure that the laws in Tennessee are passed by those who are elected by the people of Tennessee.  “If trade organizations, associations and various groups located outside Tennessee change their rules that are imposed upon members in Tennessee, those rules would have to go through the legislative process like any other promulgated rule.”

Under the UAPA, a hearing on the rules to formally adopt a code of ethics is generally held by the department of state government which governs the profession.  The rules must be filed with the Secretary of State.  The rules draft is reviewed by the State Attorney General to determine its legality and constitutionality before moving forward to a hearing by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Government Operations where the public has an opportunity to comment.  If approved there, the rule has the force and effect of law.  All rules must finally be approved by the full House of Representatives and Senate in the omnibus rules bill which is considered each year.

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