Atlanta

GA Sec. of State responds to criticism over handling of professional license renewals

ATLANTA — On Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger responded to criticism about how the State’s Division of Licensing handled thousands of renewals.

Channel 2 Action News reported on several cases from professionals about delays with renewals.

“Consistently being logged off, like clicked off, it would never go through,” nail tech Pamella Kelly said.

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Kelly told Channel 2 investigative reporter Ashli Lincoln that she was locked out of her online portal for weeks.

“It took a lot of calling and patience and persistence,” Kelly said.

This week Georgia Lt. Governor Burt Jones and Speaker of the House Jon Burns announced the appointment of a joint Blue-Ribbon Committee to investigate licensing issues within the division.

In a letter to the state, Jones and Burns describe the state’s services as “dismissive at best” and “failing to respond”.

“Small businesses and the communities they serve are the lifeblood of our state’s economy,” Speaker of the House Jon Burns said. “We have received numerous complaints from businesses across Georgia regarding substantial inefficiencies in renewing and obtaining the licenses and certifications necessary for their operation. In response, we have appointed a joint committee to identify opportunities for improvement—and subsequently, determine a path forward for resolving this critical issue. We look forward to working alongside our friends in the Senate to provide much-needed clarity and accountability surrounding the problems within the Professional Licensing Boards Division.”

Channel 2 spoke exclusively with Director Gabriel Sterling, who oversees the professional licensing division earlier this year.

He attributes delayed renewals to the rollout of new technology.

“There are some issues on the front end of trying to log in and a lot of things that people are having to do are very simple,” Sterling said.

In a letter to Jones and Burns, Raffensperger thanked the General Assembly for joining the effort to modernize and improve licensing for professionals and businesses across Georgia.

“I want to give my gratitude to Speaker Burns and Lt. Governor Jones for enlisting their help to improve the licensing process for professionals across Georgia,” Raffensperger said. “Together we can build upon the recommendations of my GA WORKS Licensing Commission and get those reforms past the finish line. We will cut red tape for thousands across the state.”

Raffensperger, who spearheaded the GA WORKS Licensing Commission, said the majority of the fees paid by professionals are being redirected to the general fund rather than following the applicant.

The licensing division generates between $25 and $30 million a year.

That’s money Raffensperger said should go towards servicing the applicant.

Fiscal Year 2025 will be the first time the division will receive an operating budget of over $10 million.

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“Investment in our licensing division is a crucial step towards ensuring that small business owners receive the level of service they rightfully expect,” Raffensperger said. “For too long, fees have been redirected to the general fund, neglecting the needs of our applicants. It’s time for funds to align with the services they support.”

Legislative initiatives such as HB 880, SB 195, SB 354, and SB 449 were passed this session allowing state workers to expedite the licensure process.

The state invested more than $2 million to hire additional staff to help process renewals.

“I remain committed to advancing licensure-friendly legislation and look forward to engaging with legislative partners to enact meaningful reforms,” Raffensperger continued.

The Blue Ribbon Committee requests that Raffensperger’s office complete his report by December 31, 2024.

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