OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 6983 (as amended by House “A”)*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE ENFORCEMENT OF CERTAIN PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING, CERTIFICATION AND REGISTRATION LAWS.

SUMMARY:

This bill gives the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) the same power currently held by the DCP professional and occupational licensing boards to hold disciplinary hearings, issue disciplinary orders, impose civil fines, and in other ways discipline holders of certain occupational and professional licenses. Under the bill, discipline may be administered by either the commissioner or a licensing board or commission.

In addition to changes that affect all trade and professional boards and commissions within DCP, the bill increases the penalties for violating the occupational licensing law governing certain trades. It (1) requires the commissioner, as the law currently requires the occupational licensing boards, to refer certain matters for criminal prosecution and requires the commissioner to make a written determination that the matter is not a bona fide dispute before referral; (2) increases the criminal penalty for certain violations of the licensing law but eliminates one of the grounds and narrows two others; and (3) makes any violation of the occupational licensing law an unfair trade practice.

*House Amendment ”A” (1) eliminates the criminal penalty for violating unspecified provisions of the occupational licensing law, (2) narrows two of the grounds for imposing it, (3) revises the exemptions from criminal penalties, and (4) requires that the commissioner's determination concerning bona fide disputes be made in writing.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007

BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS AFFECTED

The bill affects the following boards and commissions:

1. Architectural Licensing Board;

2. Examining Boards for Electrical Work; Plumbing and Piping Work; Heating, Piping, Cooling, and Sheet Metal Work; Elevator Installation, Repair and Maintenance Work; Fire Protection Sprinkler Systems Work; and Automotive Glasswork and Flat Glasswork;

3. Commission of Pharmacy;

4. State Board of Landscape Architects;

5. State Board of Examiners for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors;

6. Connecticut Real Estate Commission;

7. Connecticut Real Estate Appraisal Commission;

8. State Board of Examiners of Shorthand Reporters;

9. Liquor Control Commission; and

10. Home Inspection Licensing Board.

DISCIPLINE

Currently, only the licensing boards and commissions may discipline credential holders. They have all of the same powers the bill gives to the DCP commissioner. The bill empowers the commissioner to impose discipline without referring cases to the boards.

Grounds for Discipline

The bill authorizes the commissioner to enforce licensing requirements by imposing sanctions if a credential holder has:

1. engaged in fraud or material deception to obtain a credential or help another to obtain one;

2. worked outside of the scope of a credential;

3. illegally used or transferred a credential;

4. performed incompetent or negligent work;

5. made false, misleading, or deceptive representations about work to be done;

6. has been the subject of a disciplinary action in another jurisdiction; or

7. violated any statute or regulation related to the credential holder's trade or profession.

Hearings

The bill requires the DCP commissioner to adopt regulations establishing uniform procedural rules for the hearings he holds on matters within the jurisdiction of a licensing board or commission. The law prohibits adopting regulations until the appropriate licensing board or commission has had reasonable opportunity to review them and to offer comments. The bill authorizes the commissioner to hold hearings on matters within the jurisdiction of a licensing board or commission. Hearings must be held in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act. The bill authorizes the commissioner to administer oaths; issue subpoenas; compel testimony; and order the production of books, records, and other documents. It authorizes the court to issue enforcement orders compelling compliance.

DCP Enforcement Orders

The bill authorizes the DCP commissioner to order anyone found violating a law within the jurisdiction of a licensing board or commission to stop immediately, to require the violator to pay restitution for damage caused by the violation, or both. It allows the commissioner, through the attorney general, to seek temporary or permanent enforcement orders in court. It requires the commissioner to certify and file a complete transcript of the entire record of the hearing, including testimony, findings, and orders. The bill authorizes the court to grant relief, including temporary relief, as it deems equitable and to issue a decree enforcing, modifying, or setting aside all or part of the commissioner's order.

Disciplinary Powers

The bill authorizes the consumer protection commissioner, after a hearing, to:

1. revoke or suspend a license, registration, or permit;

2. issue letters of reprimand, place licensees, registrants, or permittees on probation;

3. place licensees, registrants, or permittees on probation and (a) require them to report regularly, (b) restrict the types of work they may perform, or (c) require them to continue their education.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING BOARDS

The bill increases the penalties for violating the laws overseen by the occupational licensing boards. They are the: Examining Boards for Electrical Work; Plumbing and Piping Work; Heating, Piping, Cooling, and Sheet Metal Work; Elevator Installation, Repair and Maintenance Work; Fire Protection Sprinkler Systems Work; and Automotive Glasswork and Flat Glasswork.

Criminal Penalties for Violating the Occupational Licensing Law

The bill requires the commissioner, as the law currently requires the occupational licensing boards, to refer matters for criminal prosecution if, after hearing, it appears that the licensing law has been violated. It prohibits criminal charges from being instituted unless the consumer protection commissioner or his agent has reviewed the work activity and specifically determined, in writing, that (1) the activity must be done by a licensed individual and (2) the issue is not a bona fide dispute between people engaged in a trade or craft, whether or not they hold a license.

It also increases the criminal penalty for violating the licensing law overseen by these boards. Under current law, the penalty is a fine of $ 200 per violation for:

1. working without a license or apprentice permit;

2. willfully employing, or supplying for employment, someone who does not have a license or apprentice permit;

3. willfully pretending to qualify for a license or permit;

4. working after the expiration of a license or permit; or

5. violating any other provision of the licensing law.

The bill (1) eliminates the penalty for violating “any other provision” of the occupational licensing law and (2) narrows two of the grounds by making someone who works without a license or apprentice permit or after the expiration of a license or permit subject to criminal penalties only for willful violations. In addition, it increases the penalty by eliminating the $ 200 fine and instead making violators guilty of a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months imprisonment, a fine of up to $ 1,000, or both. If the court imposes restitution and determines that a contractor cannot fully repay a victim within the normal probationary period (up to two years for a class B misdemeanor), the law authorizes the court to impose a probationary period of up to five years. The bill provides that this criminal penalty is in addition to any other administrative penalties that may be imposed by the DCP commissioner or the licensing boards.

Administrative Penalties for Violating the Occupational Licensing Law

The law authorizes the licensing boards to impose civil fines on the same grounds that a criminal fine may be imposed. The fines are (1) up to $ 1,000 for a first offense, (2) up to $ 1,500 for a second violation, and (3) up to $ 3,000 for subsequent violations occurring less than three years after the previous violation. The law provides that improperly registered apprentices may not be penalized for a first offense. The bill gives the DCP commissioner the same power to impose the fines. It requires him, as the law requires the licensing boards, to send to a municipality half the amount of a civil penalty imposed on a licensee as a result of a violation initially reported by a municipality.

Violations Deemed to Be Unfair Trade Practices

The bill makes it an unfair trade practice to violate any of the occupational licensing laws.

Exemptions

The bill exempts from the penalty provisions anyone who

1. holds a license (a) issued by one of the occupational licensing boards, (b) as a television or radio service dealer or electronics technician, or (c) as a well driller and performs work that is incidentally, directly, and immediately appropriate to performing the trade if the work begins at an outlet, receptacle, or connection previously installed by someone holding the proper license or

2. is not engaged in work requiring an occupational license, a television or radio license, or a well driller license.

BACKGROUND

Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA)

The law prohibits businesses from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts or practices. CUTPA allows the DCP commissioner to issue regulations defining what constitutes an unfair trade practice, investigate complaints, issue cease and desist orders, order restitution in cases involving less than $ 5,000, enter into consent agreements, ask the attorney general to seek injunctive relief, and accept voluntary statements of compliance. The act also allows individuals to sue. Courts may issue restraining orders; award actual and punitive damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys fees; and impose civil penalties of up to $ 5,000 for willful violations and $ 25,000 for violation of a restraining order.

Relationship between DCP and its Boards and Commissions

State law establishes a uniform system for DCP and its boards and commissions, which have the power to determine who qualifies for a license and to enforce standards by disciplining licensees. The law establishes DCP's duties to the boards, which include receiving complaints, carrying out investigations, and performing administrative tasks, such as physically issuing licenses and renewals.

Related Bill

SB 1043 (Files 144 and 807) also increases the criminal penalty for violating the occupational licensing law.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

37

Nay

2

(04/13/2007)

General Law Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

18

Nay

0

(05/09/2007)