It’s always refreshing to see legislation that proposes eliminating the protectionism we often find in government. So, as someone who has relied on chiropractors over the last 20-plus years, you can imagine why I took an interest in House Bill 1279, which is sponsored by Rep. Thomas Beadle (R – District 27). If passed and signed into law, it would simply put an end to the politically incestuous relationship found between the North Dakota Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NDBCE) and the North Dakota Chiropractic Association (NDCA).
In 1915, the state established the North Dakota Board of Chiropractic Examiners “to protect the citizens of the state by regulating the practice of chiropractic”— as if we needed their protection. But I digress.
The board consists of five members, who are appointed by the governor. The requirements to be eligible for the appointment are found in the North Dakota Century Code, Section 43-06-03:
- Have a license to practice chiropractic in North Dakota.
- Have been a resident of this state and have practiced chiropractic in this state for at least five consecutive years immediately before appointment to the board.
- Remain a resident of this state and continue in active practice in this state during the term of office.
The qualifications seem reasonable, right? Well, it seems that way until we read in Section 43-06-04 about how vacancies on the state board are filled:
“When a vacancy occurs on the board by expiration of the term, death, or resignation of a member, or removal for other cause, the North Dakota chiropractic association shall nominate, by procedure adopted in the bylaws of said association, to the governor three qualified persons for each vacancy. The governor shall appoint a member to fill the vacancy on the board from the three nominees.” (Emphasis Added)
As you can see, the NDCA — and the NDCA alone — holds the authority to nominate replacements for vacancies on the state board. And therein lies the problem. The NDCA isn’t the only private association for chiropractors in the state. For example, an up and coming organization recently founded for North Dakota Chiropractors is the Association of Wellness Chiropractors (AWC).
In fact, according to an anonymous member of the NDCA, their current membership stands at 226 members. If we compare that to the 2018 Board Report from the NDBCE, you’ll see that there were 436 active license holders in the state as of April 16, 2018. That means that just about 52% of active license holders in the State of North Dakota are members of the organization that controls who sits on the state board. Add in the 57 inactive license holders and that percentage drops to about 46%— less than half.
With these numbers, we literally have an organization that consists of less than half the chiropractors in North Dakota controlling how the majority in the profession function. So, would it surprise you to know that every single member of the state board is a member of the NDCA?
Apparently this control isn’t altogether positive either. I spoke with a chiropractor earlier today who tells me that the board actually goes to the extent of dictating how chiropractors promote their practices. Things like free refrigerator magnets and water bottles — used as promotional tools — are apparently frowned upon. Even pre-paid appointments are regulated to the point of being problematic. Heck, you can’t even advertise free exams or services. Don’t believe me? Look at their administrative rules — which have the force of law — here.
So, what does HB 1279 propose? It’s actually quite simple. It eliminates the language authorizing the NDCA to nominate replacements for the state board. This would then leave the appointment process solely in the hands of the governor. The NDCA would no longer have a stranglehold on the profession. Chiropractors from around the state would finally stand a chance of being appointed to the board that governs them.
Now, to be fair, I’m told that the NDCA changed their bylaws last April to include non-members as being eligible for nomination to the state board. You can see the current verbiage here in Article X, Section 6. But what do you suppose the chances are that the NDCA would nominate some — if any — candidates from outside their organization? I’m guessing not too good. But even that misses the point. The NDCA shouldn’t have sole nominating authority in the first place. In fact, why should a chiropractor be required to be part of an organization like this at all?
Unfortunately, this is just one more example of an unnecessary board, unnecessary regulations, and protectionism found in our state government. If you support ending this protectionism, then I encourage you to contact your legislators and members of the House Human Services Committee. The bill is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, January 28th, at 9:15am.
On a side note, when it hits the House floor, I’ll be curious to see how State Representative Alisa Mitskog (D – District 25) handles it. She happens to be a chiropractor.
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