The chiropractic scope of practice, composition and authority of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners (BCE), basic educational requirements and other aspects of chiropractic law have been under the Chiropractic Initiative Act that was passed by the California voters in 1922. SB 2034 seeks to amend the act. Liz Figueroa proposes to:
- decrease the number of licensed chiropractor board members from five to four;
- increase the number of public board members from two to three;
- allow the legislature to amend, revise, or supplement the Chiropractic Act;
- not permit the legislature to eliminate the licensing of chiropractic practitioners in the state; and
- provide for the termination of the operation of the board on an unspecified date.
Chiropractic is not the only victim on the chopping block. SB 2034 also seeks to give the legislature the same authority over the osteopathic profession.
SB 2034 arose out of a routine review of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners (BCE) and other consumer boards by California's Joint Legislative Sunset Review Committee (JLSRC). Many boards are subject to "sunset" provisions - i.e., boards must justify their existence to the legislature on a periodic basis. The chiropractic board cannot be "sunsetted" as long as the Chiropractic Act remains intact.
The JLSRC recommended that the BCE be treated as all other state boards, i.e., to place the BCE under oversight of the department of consumer affairs and give the legislature the authority to "amend, revise or supplement the Chiropractic Act," though "not eliminate the licensing of practitioners of chiropractic." It also means subjecting the BCE to a sunset provision, which could result in the demise of the chiropractic board in favor of regulation from another state agency. Although the JLSRC's concept of uniformity for state boards sounds equitable, it is not benign and could result in the virtual destruction of the chiropractic profession in California.
Under the authority of the Chiropractic Act, the BCE handles all of the licensing, discipline and regulation of the chiropractic profession. Under SB 2034, the BCE would lose the protection of the Act and would fall under the oversight of the DCA. The DCA has statutory authority to veto regulations made by boards under its auspices, to assess fees and impact budgets.
The California Chiropractic Association (CCA), International Chiropractors Association of California (ICAC), and representatives from the four chiropractic colleges in California have met to discuss the bill, how it could affect the profession and what action should be taken. A representative of the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners was also present at the meeting. The CCA was designated as the coordinator of the political effort for the colleges and associations.
Both the ICAC and the CCA are working together to solicit support in opposition to SB 2034. "It took an act of the people in 1922 to unite chiropractors under the umbrella of one regulatory authority and assure a uniform scope of practice," observed California Chiropractic Association President Wayne Whalen,DC. "Given our past, it will not serve us to turn over control of our very existence to the legislature and the DCA."
The ICAC Board met April 2 and passed a motion opposing SB 2034. "We are supporting the Chiropractic Board of Examiners (CBE) position to remain under the California Constitution and the initiative or referendum process," declared ICAC President Dr. James Musick. "The ICAC has agreed to coordinate our grass roots activities with the CCA and the CBE."
The CCA has met with Senator Figueroa to convey the profession's alarm about the language of her bill. The CCA indicates she "has promised to work with CCA to attempt to craft language that CCA and the profession can live with." A compromise seems dubious. Given the high stakes, it would seem that the only thing the chiropractic profession in California could live with is a quick death for the bill.
One thing is certain. If the bill goes forward as written, the CCA and ICAC will stage an all-out war against SB 2034. This would include a massive grass roots effort in Sacramento and a public campaign against any anti-chiropractic initiative on the ballot in November.
Participation by every chiropractor and student will be absolutely critical. In the coming weeks and months, all California chiropractors may be asked to enter the fight.
The following is a motion passed by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners: