The Electrician Licensing Board has no members at all and, as a result, has not been able to license any new electricians in at least two years, Licensing and Consumer Affairs personnel said during budget hearings Thursday.
The DLCA has been able to give exams and renew existing electrician licenses, but cannot issue new ones because of statutory requirements, officials said.
Sen. Clifford Graham said a constituent had called his office, complaining that the board had not met and so no one could get a new license.
Assistant DLCA Commissioner Nathalie Hodge said nominations to the board are pending but, for the last two years, there have been "no members" on the seven-member board, much less a quorum.
Graham asked if there was any V.I. statute that allowed a contingency plan for when a licensing board lacks sufficient members.
DLCA Commissioner Devin Carrington said under existing law "only the Contractor’s Board allows that."
Graham said the Legislature could advance legislation to allow the DLCA to directly approve licensure.
"I believe Sen. (Nereida Rivera) O’Reilly has proposed that," Carrington said.
The electricians board is not the only short-staffed board. Along with handling consumer complaints, inspecting weights and measures in stores and other responsibilities, the DLCA oversees nine licensing boards:
– Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors;
– Barbers, Beauticians, & Manicurists;
– Certified Public Accountants;
– General Contractors;
– Real Estate Appraisers;
– Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons;
– and Social Workers.
Carrington said there is "a dire need for the staffing on several of the boards and commissions that have been operating with less than a full complement of members."
"A complete listing of boards and commissions that are deficient in membership, primarily due to expired terms, as well as suggested names of qualified individuals who have agreed to serve, has been submitted to the governor and it is our hope that prompt action will be taken thereon forthwith," he said.
“In the meantime, the enabling statutes and rules and regulations governing each board are being given a thorough review by district counsel to ensure relevancy, consistency and legal sufficiency.”
That is not to say no one is being licensed. During Fiscal Year 2015, the division administered 17 different examinations to 89 candidates and issued 2,039 licenses – 204 new licenses and 1,835 renewals. Through the third quarter of FY16, the division administered 12 different examinations to 76 candidates and issued 1,433 licenses – 139 new licenses and 1,294 renewals, according to Carrington.
Carrington presented that agency’s budget request of $3.83 million from the General Fund. This is an 18.4 percent increase of $556,00 above the FY16 appropriation of $3.2 million.
DLCA is also expecting $400,000 comes from the Consumer Protection Fund, which is a revolving fund derived from the collection of license penalties and citation fines. This special fund is designated to address the costs associated with consumer disputes. Total funding is $4.2 million.
The largest share of the budget, $2.25 million, is for wages and salaries; with another $938,000 for benefits and taxes. This will be used for personnel services, benefits, rent, maintenance and other operating costs.
The next largest budget item is $341,000 for professional services such as their website and the department’s online licensing system, technological consultant, and janitorial, testing and extermination services.
Chief Labor Negotiator Natalie Nelson-Tang How presented the Office of Collective Bargaining’s budget of $736,000 from the Union Arbitration Fund, roughly $10,000 more than last year. The OCB and the Public Employee Relations Board negotiate union labor contracts on behalf of the government.
There are 38 collective bargaining agreements with 13 unions. Of those, seven contracts are current, including one that is on its way to the governor for approval currently, she said.
Scheduling of negotiations of expired contracts is ongoing with priority given to the oldest expired contract, unless there is an overriding exigency, such as a federal consent decree, mandating otherwise, she said.
Of the total OCB/PERB budget request of $736,000, wages and salaries consume $429,000; benefits, Medicare and Social Security taxes comprise another $170,000. The category "other services" is the next largest component at $95,000. These expenses include rent, phone, internet, custodial and other services. Supplies, utilities and capital expenses round out the remaining budget expenses.
Bureau of Motor Vehicles Director Lawrence Olive presented the BMV’s proposed FY17 budget. The executive budget proposal recommends $2 million from the General Fund, primarily for employee payroll and benefits. This is unchanged from the year before.
The BMV will get another $1 million from BMV funds for license renewal fees and so forth, and $689,000 in personalized license plate funds, for total FY17 funding of $3.7 million.
No votes were taken during the oversight hearing. Present were Graham, Sens. Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Myron Jackson, Sammuel Sanes, Positive Nelson and Tregenza Roach. No committee members were absent. Noncommittee members Rivera-O’Reilly and Sen. Justin Harrigan were also present.