Ridley-Thomas seeking to cut Chiro board funding in half

Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, has formally requested that the state cut funding to the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners in half. Ridley-Thomas is carrying legislation to rein in the board, which he said is out of control and lacks proper governmental oversight.

In a May 31 letter to Assembly Budget Committee chairman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, Ridley-Thomas “respectfully request that the Conference Committee on the Budget Bill reduce the operating budget of the Board” from $3,083,000 in the current fiscal year to $1,542,000 in 2007-08. The new state fiscal year starts July 1. Ridley-Thomas goes on to say that he hopes the funding cut-off will increase pressure to pass his legislation.

The intention is that “the Board’s funding would run out around January 1, 2008 and would be forced to cease operation.” The remaining six months of funding would be tied to SB 801, Ridley-Thomas’ bill to rein in the Chiropractic Board. A spokesperson for Ridley-Thomas’ office said that Laird has not formally replied to the request.

The bill would put the board under the control of the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and add two “public” members who are not licensed chiropractors, appointed by the legislature. The Chiropractic Board was created by statute in 1922 and exists outside much of the governmental structure that controls most professional regulatory bodies in the state.

SB 801 passed off the Senate floor on a 24-16, party-line vote on June 7. The fact that every Republican voted against the bill may not bode well for Ridley-Thomas effort, given that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may be inclined to veto the measure if it lands on his desk.

All six sitting members of the board were appointed by Schwarzenegger. Two–board chair Richard Tyler and member Franco Columbu–are longtime personal friends dating back to his bodybuilding days. One board position is vacant.

These members have been fighting several current and former board staff members. Chiropractors and former board staff have leveled numerous charges of misconduct against current and former board staffers, as well as at least two former board members.

Over in the Assembly, another bill to relating to the Chiropractic Board also moved forward–and again did so without a single Republican vote. AB 1137 by Mike Eng, D-Monterrey Park, passed 42-29 on June 6. Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy, joined with the Republicans in opposing the bill, while five Democrats and four Republicans abstained. AB 1137 would also put the Board under DCA control, and would reduce the number of Board members appointed by the governor.

If approved, both bills would go before voters in June, 2008. The California Chiropractic Association is already gathering signatures to defeat any measures before voters.

The Governor’s press secretary, Aaron McClear, said Schwarzenegger has taken no official position on either bill.

In his letter to Laird, Ridley-Thomas said “On numerous occasions partial funding of budget items have been used as leverage in negotiating solutions to various problems.” He goes on to cite half “half year funding was used in 1994 and 1995 to encourage the reform and merger of the Cemetery Board and the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers

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