Article 2 - Licenses

§34-22-20. Examinations; qualifications of applicants; execution, issuance and possession of licenses; temporary licenses.

(a) Every person desiring to practice optometry in this state shall be 19 years of age, or over, a citizen of the United States, and of good moral character. The person shall have a preliminary education of at least four years of high school or the equivalent and be a graduate thereof, have a minimum of three years of preoptometry, or the equivalent, at an accredited college or university, have completed a course of study in a accredited school or college of optometry which is approved by the board and that requires at least four years of professional study, and have passed all examinations prescribed by the board including the standard examination after completion of the educational requirements. The standard examination shall consist of tests in practical, theoretical and physiological optics, in theoretical and practical optometry, orthoptics, ocular anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, diagnosis and treatment of disease of the human eye and its adjacent structures, general anatomy and hygiene and such other knowledge as the board deems essential to the practice of optometry. The standard examination shall be consistent with the established teaching and recognized textbooks of accredited schools or colleges of optometry.

(b) The application to take the standard examination shall be upon a form prescribed and furnished by the board and verified by the oath of the applicant, accompanied by a fee to be determined by the board. The fee shall not be more than five hundred dollars ($500).

(c) The standard examination shall be held at least once in each year if there are any candidates for examination who have applied to the board at least 30 days before the date prescribed for the holding of the examination.

(d) When the application and accompanying proof are found satisfactory, the board shall notify the applicants to appear for examination at a time and place fixed by the board. Upon passing the standard examination, the applicant shall submit to the Board proof that he or she has passed all additional examinations required by the board. The applicant shall also submit any protocols for the use of pharmaceutical agents that the board may require. When these requirements have been met by the applicant and approved by the board, the board shall grant to qualified applicants a license and a license certificate, both of which shall bear a serial number, the full name of the licensee, the date of issuance, the seal of the board, and the signature of the president and secretary of the board. A seal of approval by the board of the use of pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of the human eye and any of its adjacent structures shall be affixed to the license certificate. The board may grant a temporary license under the circumstances and conditions, and in the form, as may be prescribed by rules and regulations of the board.

(e) Every license issued, whether permanent or temporary, and every annual registration certificate shall be in the possession of the optometrist to whom it was issued and posted in the office where he or she practices.

(f) Those persons who hold valid licenses to practice optometry in the state of Alabama on October 1, 1994 shall continue to be so licensed after October 1, 1994 subject to this chapter, regardless of whether they are otherwise qualified to secure a license under this chapter. Optometrists licensed under this section may apply to the board, in a manner prescribed by the board for approval to use pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of disease of the human eye and its adjacent structures. The board shall prescribe requirements to be met by applicants prior to approval by the board, including but not limited to, the requirement that the applicant has successfully completed at least 72 clock hours in the diagnosis and management of disease of the eye and its adjacent structures within a three year period preceeding application for a license.

§34-22-21. Reciprocity.

Any person who has successfully passed a standard examination in any state of the United States or all parts of the examination given by the national board of examiners in optometry and is the holder of a certificate to that effect, issued by the board of that state, or by the national board, and who has a current license to practice optometry in any state in the United States, and has conducted an ethical professional practice of optometry for at least one year, may, at the discretion of the board, and upon payment of the amount of the regular examination fee, take the standard examination, and upon passing the examination be registered as qualified to practice optometry in this state. Optometrists licensed under this act may apply to the Board for approval to use pharmaceutical agents for the treatment of disease of the human eye and its adjacent structures. The board shall prescribe rules and regulations setting forth the manner in which the application shall be made to and approval shall be given. Licensed pharmacists of this state shall fill those prescriptions as are ordered by licensed optometrists approved by the board to use pharmaceutical agents.

§34-22-22. Renewal, reinstatement or restoration: continuing education requirements.

(a) All registered optometrists licensed in the state of Alabama are required to take annual courses of study in subjects relating to the practice of optometry. The length of study shall be prescribed by the board but shall not exceed 25 clock hours in any calendar year. Licensees approved by the board to use pharmaceutical agents shall be required to take not less than 20 nor more than 25 hours of continuing education, half of which shall be in subjects relating to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease of the human eye and its adjacent structures. Attendance shall be at a course or courses approved by the board. Attendance at any course or courses of study shall be certified to the board upon a form provided by the board and shall be submitted by each registered optometrist at the time he or she makes application to the board for the renewal of license and pays the renewal fee.

(b) Continuing education requirements shall be completed between October 1 and September 30 of each fiscal year prior to the time for license renewal for the next fiscal year. Upon the failure of any licensee to certify compliance with continuing education requirements for the fiscal year on or before the first day of November, the board shall notify the licensee by registered mail addressed to his or her last address of record that certification has not been received and unless certification is received on or before the first day of January, his or her license and license certificate shall be automatically suspended. If the certification demonstrating compliance with continuing education requirements is not received by the board on or before January 1, the license and license certificate of the licensee which was previously granted shall automatically be suspended. Notwithstanding the foregoing, between October 1 and December 31 of each year, the licensee shall be permitted to complete continuing education requirements which he or she has failed to complete prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

(c) The license and license certificate shall be reinstated only upon the provision of satisfactory evidence to the board, in a form acceptable to the board, that the continuing education requirements for the one fiscal year next preceeding the proposed reinstatement have been satisfied and upon the payment of all fees required to be paid under this chapter.

(d) Every licensed optometrist who desires to continue the practice of optometry in the state shall annually, on or before the first day of October, pay to the secretary of the board a renewal fee of one hundred sixty dollars ($160), for which the licensee shall receive a renewal of the registration. Every licensed optometrist approved by the Board to use pharmaceutical agents shall pay an additional fee of one hundred dollars ($100). The licensee shall sign and verify the accuracy of the registration and certify his or her compliance with the continuing education requirements of the board for renewal on a form provided by the board. Upon submission of the completed form prescribed by the board, together with the aforementioned fee, the licensee shall receive the current annual registration certificate authorizing him or her to continue the practice of optometry in this state for a period of one year.

(e) Any license and license certificate previously granted shall automatically be suspended if the holder fails to secure the annual registration certificate by January 1 each year. Any optometrist whose license is automatically suspended by reason of failure, neglect, or refusal to secure the annual registration certificate shall be reinstated by the board upon payment of a penalty fee of two hundred dollars ($200) plus all accrued annual registration fees accompanied with the prescribed form for annual registration of the license.

(f) Upon failure of any licensee to file application for the annual registration certificate and pay the annual registration fee on or before the first day of November each year, the board shall notify the licensee by certified or registered mail addressed to his or her last address of record that the application and fee have not been received and that, unless the application and fee are received on or before the first day of January of the following year, the license and license certificate shall be automatically suspended.

(g) The board may waive annual registration and the payment of fees while any licensee is prevented from practicing optometry by reason of physical disability, temporary active duty with any of the armed forces of the United States, or while any licensee is completely retired from the practice of optometry. The waiver of fees shall be effective so long as the disability, temporary active duty, or complete retirement continues.

§34-22-23. Grounds for revocation or suspension.

Any of the following shall constitute grounds for revocation of license or suspension of license for a definite period of time, for a private or public reprimand, for probation, for the levying and collection of an administrative fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1000) per violation, for the institution of any legal proceedings necessary to enforce the provisions of this chapter:

(1) Fraud, deceit, dishonesty, or misrepresentation, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in the practice of optometry or in obtaining any license, license certificate, annual registration certificate, or other thing of value.

(2) Incompetency.

(3) Conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor which involves moral turpitude.

(4) Gross immorality.

(5) Habitual drunkenness or addiction to the use of morphine, cocaine or other drugs having similar effect.

(6) Insanity, as adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction.

(7) Directly or indirectly employing, hiring, procuring, or inducing a person, not licensed to practice optometry in this state, to so practice.

(8) Directly or indirectly aiding or abetting in the practice of optometry any person not duly licensed to practice under this chapter.

(9) Directly or indirectly employing solicitors, canvassers, or agents for the purpose of obtaining patronage.

(10) Willfully or repeatedly violating any of the provisions of this chapter.

(11) Practicing or attempting to practice optometry under a name other than one's own name as set forth on the license certificate.

(12) Lending, leasing, renting, or in any other manner placing his or her license or license certificate at the disposal or in the service of any person not licensed to practice optometry in this state.

(13) Soliciting patients by fraudulent or misleading advertising of any kind, nature, or description.

(14) Failing to comply with the continuing education requirements established by the board pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.

(15) Practicing optometry in any temporary office, apart from a regularly established office; provided, that a licensed optometrist may establish a branch office if the branch office is duly equipped with the instruments necessary, according to the rules and regulations promulgated by the board, to make complete optometric examination; provided further, that the branch office is in personal and direct charge of the optometrist establishing it or a licensed associate.

(16) Practicing optometry as the employee of any person, group, association, or corporation on the basis of any fee splitting or on any basis which has the effect of any such agreement; provided, that the provisions of this subdivision shall not be so construed as to prohibit a licensed optometrist from participating in health maintenance organizations composed of licensed professional practitioners in the health care field, other similar ethical professional health care groups, or in professional associations or professional corporations organized under Alabama law or penalize him or her for participation; provided further, that the provisions of this subdivision shall not be construed as to prohibit a licensed optometrist from practicing as the partner, employee, or associate of another licensed optometrist or a physician.

(17) Violating any other standards of unprofessional conduct as may be adopted as rules by the board.

§34-22-24. Disposition of fees.

All fees received by the board for examinations, annual renewal registrations or from any other source shall be utilized in regulating the practice of optometry and paying the expenses of the board, including necessary clerk hire, legal expenses and per diem and expenses of the members of the board as herein provided. Should the funds in the hands of the board at the end of any fiscal year (October 1) be more than $60,000.00, the excess of this amount shall be paid into the state treasury to the credit of a special trust fund which shall be spent solely for the purpose of constructing, operating and maintaining a college of optometry at the University of Alabama, in Birmingham, equipping of facilities, student scholarships and loans, faculty salaries and endowments, continuing education and research grants. (Acts 1975, No. 1148, p. 2257, 14; Acts 1989, No. 89-233, 3)