RULES AND REGULATIONS
STATE BOARD OF SOCIAL WORKERS, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS AND PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS
[49 PA. CODE CH. 47]
Verification and Certification Fees
[30 Pa.B. 3049]
The State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors (Board) amends § 47.4 (relating to licensure fees) pertaining to fees for verification and certification of licensure records to read as set forth in Annex A.
A. Effective Date
The amendments will be effective upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
B. Statutory Authority
The Board is authorized to set fees by regulation under section 18(c) of the Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors Act (63 P. S. § 1918(c)).
The statutory provisions require that the Board increase fees to meet or exceed projected expenditures. Biennial renewal fees support general administrative and enforcement costs. Fees for various services provided directly to applicants or licensees are based upon the actual charge of providing the service requested.
The fees in this rulemaking represent the cost of providing an official sealed document of Board records. By this amendment, the cost of providing the service will be apportioned to users.
This rulemaking results from a recent systems audit of the existing fees for services of the State boards within the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (Bureau). The audit determined that the current service fees for the State boards subject to this rulemaking were adequate to cover their cost, with the exception of fees charged for verification and certification of license records.
D. Summary of Comments and Responses to Proposed Rulemaking
Notice of proposed rulemaking was published at 29 Pa.B. 1897 (April 10, 1999). No public comments were received. The Board received comments from the House Professional Licensure Committee (HPLC) and the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC). No public comments were received. The following is the Board's response to those comments.
Certification and Verification Fee
The HPLC questioned under what circumstances the Board ''certifies'' an examination score. The HPLC and IRRC also requested an explanation of the difference between a verification and certification and an explanation of what accounts for the differential in fees.
The certification of a score is made at the request of a licensee when the licensee is seeking to obtain licensure in another state based upon licensure in this Commonwealth which was issued on the basis of a uniform National or regional examination which was taken in this Commonwealth. Generally, the state of original licensure is the only source of the score of the licensee as testing agencies do not maintain this information. The licensure laws of many states include provisions that licensure by reciprocity or endorsement based on licensure in another state will be granted only if the board or agency determines that the qualification are the same or substantially similar. Many state agencies have interpreted this provision to require that licensees have attained a score equal to or exceeding the passing rate in that jurisdiction at the time of original licensure. For this reason, these states require that the Board and other State boards of this Commonwealth certify the examination score the applicant achieved on the licensure examination.
As noted in proposed rulemaking, the difference between the verification and certification fees is the amount of time required to produce the document requested by the licensee. States request different information when making a determination as to whether to grant licensure based on reciprocity or endorsement from another state. The Bureau has been able to create two documents from its records that will meet all of the needs of the requesting state. The licensee, when the licensee applies to the other state, receives information as to what documentation and form is acceptable in the requesting state. The Bureau then advises the licensee of the type of document the Bureau can provide and the fee. In the case of a verification, the staff produces the requested documentation by a letter, usually computer generated, which contains the license number, date of original issuance and current expiration date and status of the license. The letters are printed from the Bureau's central computer records and sent to the State boards' staff responsible for handling the licensees application. The letters are sealed, folded and mailed in accordance with the directions of the requestor. The Bureau estimates the average time to prepare this document to be 5 minutes. The Bureau uses the term ''certification fee'' to describe the fee for a request for a document, again generally to support reciprocity or endorsement applications to other states, territories or countries, or for employment of training in another state. A certification document contains information specific to the individual requestor. It may include dates or location where examinations were taken, or scores achieved or hours and location of training. The information is entered onto a document which is usually supplied by the requestor. The average time to prepare a certification is 45 minutes. This is because a number of resources, such as files, microfilm and rosters must be retrieved and consulted to provide the information requested. The Board staff then seals and issues this document.
IRRC requested that the Bureau and the State boards: (1) itemize the overhead cost to be recouped by the fees; and (2) reexamine the method that is used to determine the administrative overhead factor for each fee.
IRRC commented that although the Bureau's method was reasonable, there was no assurance that the fees would recover the actual overhead cost because the charge was not related to the service, and because the charge was based on the actual rather than the projected expenditures. IRRC also commented that there was no certainty that the projected revenues would meet or exceed projected expenditures, as required under the State boards' enabling statutes.
In computing overhead charges the State boards and the Bureau include expenses resulting from service of support staff operations, equipment, technology initiatives or upgrades, leased office space and other sources not directly attributable to a specific State board. Once determined, the Bureau's total administrative charge is apportioned to each State board based upon that board's share of the total active licensee population. In turn, the State boards administrative charge is divided by the number of active licensees to calculate a per application charge which is added to direct personnel cost to establish the cost of processing. The administrative charge is consistently applied to every application regardless of how much time the staff spends processing the application.
This method of calculating administrative overhead to be apportioned to fees for services was first included in the biennial reconciliation of fees and expenses conducted in 1988-89. In accordance with the regulatory review, the method was approved by the Senate and House Standing Committees and IRRC as reasonable and consistent with the legislative intent of statutory provisions which require the Board to establish fees which meet or exceed expenses.
IRRC suggested that within each State board, the administrative charge should be determined by the amount of time required to process each application. For example, an application requiring 1/2 hour of processing time would pay one-half as much overhead charge as an application requiring one hour of processing time. The Bureau concurs with IRRC that by adopting this methodology, the Bureau and the State boards would more nearly and accurately accomplish their objective of setting fees that cover the cost of the service. Therefore, in accordance with IRRC's suggestions, the Bureau conducted a test to compare the resulting overhead of charge obtained by applying IRRC suggested time factor versus the current method. This review of a State board's operation showed that approximately 25% of staff time was devoted to providing services described in the regulations. The current method recouped 22% to 28% of the administrative overhead charges versus the 25% recouped using a ratio-based time factor. However, when the time factor is combined with the licensing population for each State board, the resulting fees vary widely even though different licensees may receive the same services. For example, using the time-factor method to issue a verification of licensure would cost $34.58 for a landscape architect as compared with a cost of $10.18 for a cosmetologist. Conversely, under the Bureau method the administrative overhead charge of $9.76 represents the cost of processing a verification application for all licensees in the Bureau. Also, the Bureau found that employing a time factor in the computation of administrative overhead would result in a different amount of overhead charge being made for each fee proposed.
With regard to IRRC's suggestions concerning projected versus actual expenses, the State boards noted that the computation of projected expenditures based on amounts actually expended has been the basis for biennial reconciliations for the past 10 years. During these five biennial cycles, the experience of both the Boards and the Bureau has been that established and verifiable data which can be substantiated by collective bargaining agreements, pay scales and cost benefit factors, help provide a reliable basis for fees. Also, the fees are kept at a minimum for licensees, but appear adequate to sustain the operations of the State boards over an extended period. Similarly, accounting, recordkeeping and swift processing of applications, renewals and other fees were the primary basis for rounding up the actual costs to establish a fee. This rounding up process has in effect resulted in the necessary but minimal cushion or surplus to accommodate unexpected needs and expenditures.
For these reasons, the State boards have not made changes in the method by which they allocate administrative expenditures and the resulting fees will remain as proposed. Additionally, the HPLC requested further information on fees of other states which are comparable in response to Regulatory Analysis Item 25. This has been added to the analysis and is available to the public on request.
The HPLC also requested with respect to Bureau fees generally that additional information be provided on the Regulatory Analysis Form filed with the Committees and IRRC. This information concerned comparable fees of other states (Item 25). Additional information has been provided and a copy of the Regulatory Analysis Form is available to the public upon request.
E. Regulatory Review
Under section 5(a) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5(a)), on March 29, 1999, the Board submitted a copy of this proposed rulemaking, to IRRC and the Chairpersons of the HPLC and the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.
In compliance with section 5(c) of the Regulatory Review Act, the Board also provide additional documentation. In preparing the final-form regulation, the Board considered the comments from the Committees and IRRC.
Under section 5.1(d) of the Regulatory Review Act (71 P. S. § 745.5a(d)), on April 17, 2000, this final-form rulemaking was deemed approved by the House and Senate Committees. Under section 5.1(e) of the Regulatory Review Act, IRRC met on April 27, 2000, and deemed approved the final-form regulation under section 5(e) of the Regulatory Review Act.
F. Compliance with Executive Order 1996-1
In accordance with Executive Order 1996-1 (February 6, 1996), in drafting and promulgating the final-form regulations, the Board considered the least restrictive alternative to regulate costs for services for certification or verification of licensure.
G. Fiscal Impact and Paperwork Requirements
The rulemaking will have no fiscal impact on the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions. The fees will have a modest fiscal impact on those members of the private sector who request certification or verification services from the Board. The amendment will impose no additional paperwork requirement upon the Commonwealth, political subdivisions or the private sector.
H. Sunset Date
The Board continuously monitors the cost effectiveness of the regulation. Therefore, no sunset date has been assigned.
I. Contact Persons
Interested persons may receive more information by writing the State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors, Clara Flinchum, Board Administrator, P. O. Box 2649, Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649.
The Board finds that:
(1) Public notice of proposed rulemaking was given as required by sections 201 and 202 of the act of July 31, 1968 (P. L. 769, No. 240) (45 P. S. §§ 1201 and 1202).
(2) A public comment period was provided as required by law.
(3) The amendment does not enlarge the scope of proposed rulemaking at 29 Pa.B. 1897.
(4) The amendment is necessary and appropriate to administer and enforce the Board's enabling statutes.
The Board, acting under the authority of its enabling statute, orders that:
(a) The regulations of the Board, 49 Pa. Code Chapter 47, are amended by amending § 47.4 to read as set forth in Annex A.
(b) The Board shall submit this order and Annex A to the Office of General Counsel and Office of Attorney General as required by law.
(c) The Board shall certify this order and Annex A and deposit them with the Legislative Reference Bureau as required by law.
(d) This order shall take effect on publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
MANUEL J. MANOLIOS,
(Editor's Note: For the text of the order of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission, relating to this document, see 30 Pa.B. 2430 (May 13, 2000).)
Fiscal Note: Fiscal Note 16A-693 remains valid for the final adoption of the subject regulation.
TITLE 49. PROFESSIONAL AND VOCATIONAL STANDARDS
PART I. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Subpart A. PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL AFFAIRS
CHAPTER 47. STATE BOARD OF SOCIAL WORKERS, MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS AND PROFESSIONAL COUNSELORS
§ 47.4. Licensure fees.
(a) The fee schedule for licensure as a licensed social worker or for a provisional license shall be as follows:
(1) Application fee for licensure and original license issuance as a licensed social worker $15 (2) Biennial renewal for a licensed social worker $45 (3) One-time assessment fee for a licensed social worker licensed during the 1988 to 1991 licensure cycle $30 (4) Application fee for provisional license and provisional license issuance $25 (5) Verification of licensure $15 (6) Certification of license, scores or hours $25
(b) Applicants who were issued licenses prior to June 24, 1989, and who have not paid the appropriate fee in subsection (a) are required to remit the fee within 30 days of receipt of notice from the Board to maintain active licensure status. Failure to remit the required fee within that time will result in the license being placed on inactive status. A licensee holding oneself out as a ''licensed social worker'' while the license is on an inactive status may be subject to disciplinary proceedings before the Board.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 00-1040. Filed for public inspection June 16, 2000, 9:00 a.m.]
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