Hygiene proposals fail to advance in sunset review

The Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC) faced its first legislative "sunset review" hearing last week. Based on that hearing, all indications are that the legislature will continue the committee for another four years but will not support expanding the committee's authority or the hygiene profession's scope of practice as proposed by the DHCC and the California Dental Hygienists Association.

"CDA believes that the Dental Hygiene Committee is performing its tasks appropriately as it is currently constituted, and thus sees no argument for making it an independent board or expanding dental hygiene's scope of practice," said William L. Marble, DDS, chair of CDA's Government Affairs Council. "We are pleased that the sunset review analysis is in line with our view on those main points."

The DHCC was established in 2009 as a separate committee under the jurisdiction of the Dental Board of California (DBC) to regulate licensure, enforcement and education of dental hygienists. State law establishes a sunset review process by which the legislature periodically (usually every four years) conducts a formal evaluation of each state licensing body to assess its performance, determine whether it should continue, and if so, whether any changes should be made. Each body has a "sunset" date inserted in the law to trigger the evaluation process; the DHCC's current sunset date is Jan. 1, 2015, which must be extended by legislation in order for it to continue to exist.

In its required report to the Assembly and Senate Business and Professions committees that oversee the review process, submitted last fall, the DHCC recommended a number of significant changes that CDA opposed. They included changing the name of the DHCC to the Dental Hygiene Board of California, and deleting the law placing it under the jurisdiction of the Dental Board; deleting language requiring the DHCC to consult with the DBC regarding proposed dental hygiene scope of practice changes; and moving administration of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide from direct to general supervision duties for registered dental hygienists (RDHs).

In its analysis released prior to the March 17 joint committee hearing to take testimony on the DHCC, the committee staff recommendations stated that it was premature to be considering changing the DHCC to a board, and that the DHCC should first consult with the Dental Board of California regarding the proposed scope of practice changes for RDHs before seeking future legislation. CDA testified at the hearing in support of the committee staff recommendations. The DHCC representatives indicated that they would not continue to pursue the change to a board this year, while representatives of the California Dental Hygienists Association expressed continued support for the proposed changes.

Senate Bill 1245 (Lieu) has been introduced as a "placeholder" bill for the DHCC sunset review legislation. Any proposed statutory changes resulting from the March 17 hearing will be amended into that bill and moved through the legislative process later this year. CDA will continue to be an active participant in that process.