The Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr.
President of the Senate
Annapolis, MD 21401
Dear Mr. President:
In accordance with Article II, Section 17 of the Maryland Constitution, I have today vetoed Senate Bill 547 - State Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists.
Senate Bill 547 authorizes the Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists (Board) to adopt regulations that authorize a "licensed graduate marriage and family therapist" and a "licensed graduate professional counselor" to practice marriage and family therapy or professional counseling if the individual: (1) is of good moral character; and (2) is at least 18 years old. An individual is able to practice as a "licensed graduate marriage and family therapist" or a "licensed graduate professional counselor" without licensure for a limited period of time if the individual: (1) has passed a national examination approved by the Board; (2) is working under the supervision of a licensed practitioner; (3) is fulfilling experiential requirements for licensure; and (4) has a master's or doctoral degree in a professional counseling or marriage and family field that meets specified educational requirements. An individual who has been approved by the Board may represent to the public that the individual is approved to practice and may use the initials "L.G.P.C." or "L.G.M.F.T.".
In general, an individual may not practice in a health care profession unless the individual has been issued a license to practice by the respective professional board. The issuance of a license indicates to the general public that the licensee has meet certain regulatory requirements. In exchange for being issued a license to practice, the licensee is required to abide by the rules and regulations of the board and is subject to disciplinary actions for violations of the law.
As passed, Senate Bill 547 allows an individual to use the term "licensed graduate marriage and family therapist" and "licensed graduate professional counselor," as well as the corresponding initials without having to go through the actual licensure process. Most troubling to me is the fact that it does not appear that the Board is authorized to take action against an individual who has been approved by the Board to practice as a "licensed graduate marriage and family therapist" or "licensed graduate professional counselor" but who violates the Maryland Professional Counselors and Therapists Act. Rather, the Board is only authorized to take action against an individual who practices as a "licensed graduate marriage and family therapist" or as a "licensed professional counselor" without first obtaining Board approval to practice.
Consequently, I am concerned that the use of the term "licensed" is misleading to the public and will cause the public to believe that these individuals are subject to the rules and regulations of the Board when, in fact, they are not.
While I do not support the use of the term "licensed" in the context of Senate Bill 547, I have supported similar legislation. For example, in 2000, I signed legislation to authorize the State Board of Social Work Examiners to issue a license to practice graduate social work to an individual who has received a master's degree and is working under the supervision of certain licensed individuals. This legislation clearly stipulated that a license includes a license issued by the State Board of Social Work Examiners to practice graduate social work. As such, a "licensed graduate social worker" is subject to all the rules and regulations bestowed on individuals who have been granted a license to practice certified social work or certified social work-clinical. In addition, House Bill 731, which I signed earlier this year, creates a temporary license to practice cosmetology to an individual who is waiting to take a licensing examination. Unlike Senate Bill 547, House Bill 731 clearly defines "license" to include a temporary license and therefore subjects these individuals to the normal licensure process and disciplinary authority of the State Board of Cosmetology.
Apart from the concern that I have over the use of the term "licensed" in the context of Senate Bill 547, I also believe that Senate Bill 547 creates an inequity among the health care professions. Allowing an individual to practice under the supervision of a licensed health care provider while pursuing the experiential requirements typically required under law is a common thread that extends to many health occupation boards. However, no board allows these individuals to receive a credential or title unless the Board has issued a license to them. Consequently, it seems unfair to grant a license to the individuals represented under Senate Bill 547 when individuals in similar positions are not granted a title. For example, Senate Bill 71, passed this Session and signed by me, allows an individual to practice alcohol and drug counseling without certification or to practice clinical alcohol and drug counseling without a license if the individual is working as a trainee under the supervision of an approved alcohol and drug supervisor while fulfilling the experiential or course of study requirements under law. Senate Bill 71 does not, however, grant these individuals a title or a credential during this period of time. In order not to confuse the public, I believe a consistent approach is needed among the health care professions.
For the above reasons, I have vetoed Senate Bill 547.
Parris N. Glendening