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EDITORIAL: Gov. Steve Sisolak has headaches over Nevada licensing boards

Gov. Steve Sisolak last week took a small step toward dealing with Nevada’s rogue dental regulatory board. Let’s hope he doesn’t stop there.

Last week, the governor requested that the state Board of Dental Examiners cancel its November meeting. The move came just days after the Review-Journal published a three-part series documenting several issues with the panel regarding transparency and accountability. The report found that the board had abrogated its duty to discipline problem dentists and routinely ignored open meeting laws.

Two previous state audits — in 2016 and 2019 — also found numerous problems with how the dental board conducts its business, citing ethics issues, inconsistent oversight of investigative activities and a proclivity to implement regulations without the required public comment.

State officials are scheduled to meet today to determine whether the dental board acted on or ignored the recommendations contained in the 2019 audit. Gov. Sisolak asked for the postponement of last week’s meeting in order to prevent the panel from taking official actions before that review process had moved forward.

Warren Lowman, administrator of the governor’s internal audit division, hinted that the board has yet to make the necessary corrections. “We’ll provide our assessment,” he said. “It’s a bit different than theirs.”

The governor has previously expressed dismay at the dental board’s activities. “I don’t know where to begin,” he said in June after the 2019 audit was released, “but I’m not happy with the way this turned out.”

Gov. Sisolak has the power to appoint members of the dental board. The terms of three members of the panel expired last week. If the state finds a continuing pattern of issues, the governor shouldn’t hesitate to clean house.

He should also consider a re-evaluation of all the state’s licensing boards, which too often function as protectionist entities more concerned with shielding existing interests than with promoting competition and public health and safety. The dental board is hardly the only problem.

Last week, for instance, Gov. Sisolak revealed that the state Board of Pharmacy for more than a decade has often failed to conduct the required background checks of drug wholesalers. Last year, a report presented to the state executive audit committee cited numerous oversight issues with the more than three dozen occupational regulatory boards operating at the state level.

“My administration,” Gov. Sisolak acknowledged last month, “is aware of allegations related to other state boards and we share serious concerns over what appears to be a pattern displaying a lack of oversight and accountability.”

Indeed. The governor still has much work in front of him.

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