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Editorial - Dietetics board warned: Act now or be sued


(NaturalNews) It is only a matter of time before an organization or individual sues the state over our job licensing laws. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling issued last year paved the way for this to happen. As of now, at least one group has warned the state to address the mess. A copy of its letter to Gov. Terry Branstad recently landed in the mailbox of a Register editorial writer. (Story by The Register's editorial, republished from http://www.desmoinesregister.com.)

"The Alliance for Natural Health USA requests that the Iowa Board of Dietetics, which licenses and oversees about 1,000 dieticians, 'cease unlawfully restricting the practice of nutrition' in the profession. The letter, dated June 11, notes that the board's current structure and practices violate the court's ruling. Changes must be made 'or the Board and its members will be vulnerable to federal prosecution and civil damages.'

"That sounds about right.

"Iowa has 34 state-sanctioned boards overseeing thousands of workers in dozens of professions. These include doctors, dentists, hairdressers, dieticians, manicurists, massage therapists and the guy who fits your hearing aid at the mall. Among the many problems with Iowa's boards: They are composed largely of private-sector workers, given authority by the state to penalize other workers, and they operate with essentially no oversight.

"This structure just doesn't fly anymore, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court. And it shouldn't.

"The court's message to all states regarding all their boards: You cannot let a group of industry insiders regulate their peers, provide no meaningful supervision and consider them exempt from federal antitrust laws. They are not exempt.

"The Alliance for Natural Health USA sent similar warning letters to 16 other states, its legislative director Allison Murphy said. Iowa is among those with 'the most restrictive and monopolistic laws' and the group plans on following up. Iowa is not one of the states that has responded to the letter, she said.

"Gov. Terry Branstad's office could not immediately confirm whether Iowa had received similar letters from other organizations. Spokesman Jimmy Centers said the governor and Attorney General Tom Miller had met to discuss the court ruling and will work together leading up to the next legislative session on any action that should be taken.

"'Governor Branstad believes the first job for any board is to protect Iowans, not to simply protect a profession,' Centers said.

"Well, the governor has his work cut out for him then. He should make job licensing reform a priority and use his bully pulpit to encourage change. Iowa law requires the majority of board members to work in the industries they oversee. Lawmakers should change the composition of the boards to comply with the ruling.

"The letter from Alliance also raises another issue for state officials to consider, particularly as it pertains to dieticians and athletic trainers: Licensing rules may violate free speech rights. 'The First Amendment provides protection to persons speaking about nutrition outside of a professional relationship,' according to the letter. Is someone violating Iowa law if they give nutritional, diet or exercise advice without having secured a state license?

"Instead of waiting for this and other questions to be sorted out by a court, Iowa leaders should tackle the mess of job licensing laws and rules now.

Dietetics' onerous licensing requirements

"In Iowa, obtaining approval to work as a 'registered dietician' or 'dietician' is no easy task. You need a license from the state. A college degree in a relevant major is only the first requirement in securing government permission to work.

"Administrative rules require you to spend hundreds of hours working in a 'supervised experience program' approved by an organization with a Chicago address. Such a practicum can take months and cost thousands of dollars. You also will pay $200 for an exam administered by a non-government entity. Don't pass it? Pay again and try again. Though you may now be 'registered,' you still need to be 'licensed.'

"Fill out the state forms. Provide all the documentation. Pay $120 for the license itself. And don't forget about the ongoing continuing education requirements imposed by the state as you move forward in your career. Then there are the downright bizarre provisions in rules, including requiring dieticians to undergo training to be mandatory child abuse reporters and training to identify dependent adult abuse. Also inexplicable: Anyone engaged in 'active' military service does not need to complete these trainings.

"These state requirements are time-consuming and expensive and may discourage Iowans from pursuing work in the profession. Yet they cement in place a stream of customers for entities earning money from exams and internships."

Read more at: DesMoinesRegister.com

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