Legislation has been introduced in Georgia to give the Georgia State Board of Accountancy its own executive director and staff, along with greater financial and operational autonomy, to bring it in line with other state boards of accountancy.

Georgia Representative David Knight, CPA, introduced the legislation Monday to strengthen the GSBA so it could more effectively protect the state’s citizens and business community. The GSBA met Friday and unanimously approved a resolution in support of House Bill 291, the Public Accountancy Act of 2013.

“We have a vital interest in the strength of the Georgia State Board of Accountancy,” Knight said in a statement. “I am deeply concerned that the authority, lack of necessary resources and current reporting relationship to the state legislature and governor are inappropriate and lead to an ineffective board. This legislation would provide the financial and operational independence needed for the board to properly enforce and regulate the accounting profession. which is critical to protecting Georgia’s citizens.”

Currently, as accountancy boards across the country are measured by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, the Georgia State Board of Accountancy is in one of the weakest positions, his office noted. Despite the best efforts of the GSBA’s board members, the existing laws governing the GSBA do not provide the resources and independence necessary to adequately oversee the CPA profession.

“I am the current chairman of what is likely the weakest state [accountancy] board in the country with respect to enforcement and administrative actions,” said J. Sam Johnson, CPA, who currently chairs the GSBA. “It is my opinion that a more autonomous board having a high level of input in its budgetary and financial matters would more effectively and efficiently meet its stated purpose to protect the public welfare and license qualified individuals.”

Rep. Knight’s bill would create a semi-independent accountancy board to allow for greater operational autonomy and increased resources. The bill includes provisions for the GSBA to hire an executive director and supporting staff, giving the GSBA greater independence in order to effectively enforce and regulate the accounting profession.

The legislation, if passed, would create a semi-independent GSBA by separating the operational and budget functions of the GSBA from the 43 other licensing boards in Georgia, thereby providing the operational independence necessary to ensure that the GSBA can successfully fulfill its mission.

“The board believes that the provisions of House Bill 291 will provide the board with the budgetary, financial and operating automony necessary to more fully accomplish its mission and obligation to protect the public welfare and license qualified individuals,” said Johnson.

The bill would also allow the GSBA to establish appropriate operations and proactively investigate claims of violations of the profession’s regulations to ensure a strong public trust in the accounting profession, along with the state’s economic health and financial system.

This legislation is modeled after the concept that NASBA believes it is essential for accountancy boards to have a high level of autonomy in operational and financial matters and the authority to operate at a level commensurate with their responsibility to act in the public interest. This view is supported by the U.S. Treasury Department, which has urged “the states to create greater financial and operational independence of their state boards of accountancy.”

“The services provided by CPAs in Georgia have a tremendous impact on a Georgia’s commerce, economic health and citizens in terms of the state’s GDP and tax collections,” said Georgia Society of CPAs CEO Boyd Search. “This bill creates a board that can successfully and effectively regulate the CPA profession in Georgia, therefore protecting the credibility, validity and reliability of the CPA license on which the public relies.”

“It has been apparent for some time that we needed to move toward a more independent structure to ensure that it had enough autonomy and resources to oversee the accountancy profession in our state,” said Royce Duncan, a member of the GSCPA Task Force on the Georgia State Board. “HB 291 is modeled after concepts promoted by NASBA and endorsed by U. S. Department of Treasury, which encourage a high level of autonomy in operational and financial matters, as well as having the authority to be independent in actions designed to protect the public interest. We believe the passage of this legislation is our best hope of achieving these vital objectives.”

Duncan noted that the bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 19, at the State Capitol and the GSCPA plans to have CPAs available to testify on various aspects of the legislation. “Obviously, we will hope to have it passed out of this committee, voted on by the entire Georgia General Assembly, and ultimately signed by our governor,” he added.