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We Did It!

By Morgan Plant, Government Relations Consultant
PA Alliance of Counseling Professionals and
The Pennsylvania Community Providers Association

As I write this we are still waiting for Governor Ridge to sign SB 619 into law, which will be the last step in what has been a very long climb. At the end of session the Governor has 30 days to sign legislation, and the deadline for signing the over 40 pieces on his desk, including SB 619, is December 30. So don't worry - I don't often make predictions with certitude, but I can't imagine his not signing this! After our positive response to the Sunrise Evaluation Report and the close involvement of the Governor's staff in the final days of redrafting there aren't any surprises there for him.

To go back to my mountain climbing analogy - we have finally reached the summit! We should all be very proud of this accomplishment. The last two months, from the insertion of the Bell Amendment on September 29 until final passage in the House on November 23 was an incredibly intense time. We worked feverishly with House Professional Licensure Committee staff to draft an amendment that we could live with, which was then passed by the Senate the week before Thanksgiving. Along the way we had help and support from a variety of sources, both inside and outside the Capitol.

Just a few of those we owe a debt of gratitude to are:

The Alliance board members, both past and present, who slogged through years of meeting in Harrisburg every month, late night perusal of legislative language to make sure it didn't hurt us, strategy sessions, lobby days, et al. Also, our intrepid staff Sue Morano, who works for both the Alliance and the PA Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapy. Sue has fielded thousands of phone calls over the years, tracked down information, organized our meetings and done whatever it took to get the job done. Special mention should also go to Alliance President David Hall, who has been Webmaster extraordinare. His web site for the PA Counseling Association, with the legislative section devoted to licensure, has been an incredible resource for getting accurate information out very quickly to those of us on the Internet.

Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin) and Rep. Sheila Miller (R-Berks) our prime sponsors in this legislative session. We also bid a fond farewell to Sen. Roy Afflerbach (D-Lehigh) who was our lead Democratic sponsor in the Senate and was not successful in his bid to become a US Congressman. Rep. Phyllis Mundy (D-Luzerne) was our lead Democratic sponsor in the House.

Particular gratitude also goes to Rep. Mario Civera (R-Delaware), Chairman of the House Professional Licensure Committee. Rep. Civera took leadership when we needed it most critically, and worked with us, the social workers, the psychiatrists and others to craft a compromise amendment we could all live with. He then very graciously gave his work product to the Senate, which amended it into HB 619 the week before Thanksgiving. He also enjoyed the support of the Democratic members of his committee in this endeavor.

Rep. John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) Majority Leader of the House, for his willingness to put licensure on the list of things for the House to get done before the end of session.

Our colleagues in the mental health field -especially the members of the PA Community Providers Association, their Executive Ray Webb and Government Relations Director Lu Conser. From the beginning the PA Providers were our most steadfast supporters and always got their letters to the Hill in a timely fashion. Also the members of the PA Social Work Coalition, who were able to put aside their displeasure at having their board disrupted and work with us to add a Clinical Social Work title to the bill.

Finally, I want to make particular reference to the many staff in the House, the Senate and the Governor's office, who helped us along the way. There is not enough space to recognize all of them, but please know that at every step in the process they have helped us, in ways large and small.

I also want to share a quiet moment of remembrance with you for Patrick McNamee. Pat was a past President of PAMFT, a veteran of the 1980's licensure effort and the PAMFT legislative chairman who retained me to work on licensure in July, 1991. He passed away several years ago, and I wish he could be here to celebrate with us.

Thanks to all of you -who through the years have written letters, come to lobby day, made PAC contributions, rounded up your colleagues, etc. It was the collaborative effort of all of us, working together, which really made this possible.

But . . . don't put away your pens just yet. Next we must get five new members of the newly constituted board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists and Professional Counselors nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Then, we have to make sure the regs developed by the new board do not stifle our ability to work as "Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists" and "Licensed Professional Counselors." Stay tuned!

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