Audiologist regulatory bill passes in close House vote


From left to right, Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, and Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, are members of an interim legislative committee examining the public defender system in the state.

The Idaho House of Representatives on Monday narrowly approved a bill to place new limits on the audiology profession in the state. House Bill 34 passed on a 37-30 vote.

The measure requires all audiologists, who diagnose hearing and balance problems in patients, to have a doctoral degree with a specialization in the audiology arena.

Under the existing law, an audiologist can have a master’s degree, and doctorate degree holders who have completed enough schooling in a related field of discipline also can hold an Idaho license. But those levels of education would not be enough under the bill.

The legislation produced a hot debate on the House floor.

Rep. Lynn Luker, a Republican from Boise, said he “is concerned about licensing requirements because of the effect on the marketplace. For instance, access in rural areas. We seem to be restricting professional degrees. At least 38 other states don’t require the doctorate degree.”

Luker also expressed concern about excluding people currently studying in the field from gaining access to the industry.

But Republican Fred Wood, of Burley said, “Idaho only accepts national accrediting body of a Ph.D is because of the advances in medicine.” Wood said it is in the “public safety to only accept a Ph.D in audiology.”

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, raised concerns because the bill did not “clearly define if the existing licenses would be required to obtain a Ph.D in order to operate or would they be grandfathered in.”

The floor sponsor, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, said that he believed they would through the board rule making process.

The bill now goes to the Senate for additional consideration.

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