INDIANAPOLIS — Legislators reviewed a sweeping bill that would condense at least 12 professional licensing agencies and eliminate others Tuesday in an attempt to reduce government oversight.

But critics say parts of the bill could leave consumers and industry professionals vulnerable.

As part of the good government component of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s legislative agenda, House Bill 1269, would realign commissions designed to license everything from social workers to engineers and private investigators. The legislation, authored by Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville, also strikes certain licensing requirements altogether for hearing aid dealers and auctioneers.

Kathy Williams, public policy consultant for the Indiana Midwives Association, told the special committee a provision in HB 1269 that would repeal the Indiana Certified Direct Entry Midwifery Committee and place its responsibilities under the state board of nursing could deregulate midwife practices to a dangerous extent. The midwifery committee is responsible for the licensing and regulation of Indiana midwives through the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.

Williams, speaking on behalf of the midwives’ association, said eliminating a dedicated committee would harm expecting mothers and their children, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are limited and births often take place within a family home.

For example, existing regulations require licensed midwives to obtain a signed agreement with a woman’s doctor before providing services to a patient. This ensures the mother stays up to date on first and third trimester exams.

“We have a profession with many, many layers of details, regulations, and requirements, which I venture to guess is the most heavily regulated profession in Indiana right now,” Williams said. “If the midwifery committee were to be eliminated, there would be nobody overseeing this practice that has any understanding of the practice.”

Williams added the state would save $2,850 by removing the committee, citing a figure in the bill’s fiscal analysis.

Monica Gallien, an Indianapolis-based audiologist, presented similar concerns to the committee. Because HB 1269 would repeal Indiana’s committee of hearing aid dealer examiners, those selling hearing aids to consumers would no longer have to operate under a state license.

“If we say that anyone is able to fit hearing aids, without the need for licensure, there are three major safety concerns,” Gallien said, saying unlicensed providers are not qualified to interpret hearing tests or fit hearing devices to a patient. “If your child would need a hearing aid or [grandchild or parent], I think you would want someone who can recognize potentially harmful medical conditions and who is also trained to provide them with the highest level of service.”

Meredith Lizza, director of communications and legislative affairs for the professional licensing agency, said consumers who are defrauded or harmed by an unlicensed hearing aid dealer would have to resolve complaints in court.

But some lawmakers argued litigation simply isn’t an option for all Hoosiers.

“What about the number of people in this state that are living in poverty, or close to poverty?” asked Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary. “They don’t have money to use the system.”

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, remained adamant that the mission of the committee is to reduce bureaucracy, arguing qualified industry experts can control their work without government intervention.

“The people that are experts in the field, you should know what expectations are and what levels have to be met,” Lucas said. “You know what’s safe and what’s unsafe.”

Gutwein, who also chairs the select committee, held HB 1269 for further discussion.

Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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