Regulatory centralization in Colorado and fostering collaboration through CLEAR: A conversation with Ronne Hines (Part 1)
Ronne Hines
In Part 1 of Paul Leavoy's conversation with Ronne Hines, formerly from Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), they discuss DORA’s mandate, the benefits and challenges of a centralized regulatory model, how CLEAR fosters inter-agency collaboration, and more.

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Colorado is one of more than 20 states taking a centralized approach to regulation, where one or two “umbrella agencies” are charged with oversight of the state’s individual occupational licensing boards. Officially created in 1968, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (known as “DORA”), the state’s regulatory umbrella agency, is charged with managing licensing and registration for multiple professions and businesses, implementing balanced regulation for Colorado industries, and protecting consumers.

DORA is comprised of 10 distinct divisions, more than 312 board members, and over 600 professional regulatory staff. The Division of Professions and Occupations (DPO) provides consumer protection through its regulation of over 500,000 licensees, registrants, certificants, and permit holders for more than 55 professions, occupations, and businesses in the state. 

Ascend Magazine Editor-in-Chief Paul Leavoy sat down with Ronne Hines, who served as director of DPO, to talk about her work at DORA as well as her experience serving as president of the Council on Licensure, Enforcement, and Regulation (CLEAR). They began by discussing DORA’s mandate, the benefits and drawbacks of regulatory centralization, how CLEAR fosters inter-agency collaboration, lessons learned from her time as CLEAR’s president, and more.

Note: this conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you give us a bit of a background on DORA, its mandate, and how it came into being?

DORA has evolved over the years. Its mission is consumer protection. We want to make sure that we’re getting licensees into the workplace but balancing that with consumer protection, of course.

DORA is the larger agency that houses the division that I oversee, which is DPO – the Division of Professions and Occupations. There are about 10 different divisions in DORA, so it ranges from real estate, securities, the public utilities commission, financial services, banking – it has a broad scope of regulation. We also house the civil rights division.

The underlying mandate is still the same, it’s still consumer protection overall. Bringing that all under one house has allowed us to leverage how we’re able to do that, whether it’s leveraging technology, or leveraging resources among each other, but making sure that we’re serving as an executive agency, serving the governor, and serving the people of Colorado.

What kind of challenges did you find as deputy director of health care?

As deputy director of health care, I think the challenges are making sure that you’re getting your voice out there, developing those relationships with stakeholders, and making sure that they know what we’re doing and that we’re here to support them as licensees. Also, a huge challenge is getting out to consumers, making sure that they know we exist so that if they have a complaint or a concern, they know where to file it.

The internal challenge is making sure that we’re doing things consistently. I think that we’ve really strived to do things in a different way. Although we are an umbrella agency, the boards still do their unique work. We have some centralized services, but the complaint processes had been different when I was health care deputy.

The work of the boards is very different, but the priorities are usually the same. You want to make sure that you’re addressing high risk for the public, and you want to make sure that you’re processing complaints consistent with the law and in a defensible way. Overall, I think the boards have done a great job making sure that they’re addressing concerns and being thoughtful. But it was a big role and a very diverse role, ranging from the administrative internal aspect to the external aspect where the legislative and policy work touched so many people across the state.

How do you go about identifying and measuring what those highest risk areas for the public are going to be?

Ultimately, we rely on the underlying practice acts and make sure that we enforce and comply with what those practice acts are. The highest risks to health and public safety are always our biggest concern and that’s how we measure that.

Have you encountered any recurring challenges during your time at DORA?

The biggest challenge is educating consumers and finding ways to reach them. Another challenge is making sure we’re educating licensees in a way that we can support them. If there’s a common violation – whether it’s they’re not keeping their information up to date or whatever it might be – making sure that we’re educating them so we can help them prevent having a disciplinary issue in front of a board.

Would you say that a lot of people need to be made aware that these systems and processes are available and how to find them?

I think on the consumer side, that’s very true. Licensees obviously know where to find us, but making sure they know what the requirements are is always an ongoing challenge. We have to make sure that we’re transparent and that we’re communicating as much as possible so they’re as informed as they can be.

You also recently served a term as president of CLEAR. How would you describe your time in that role and what kind of work did it involve?

I’ve been a member of CLEAR for quite a long time. I’ve always valued the excitement of all the members of CLEAR and I think that’s why I wanted to serve in that role. After attending attorney conferences, my first CLEAR conference was a very different experience. It was really exciting to me to see that everybody there was so engaged and so excited to be there and learn from each other.

As president of CLEAR, I oversaw the board and made sure that the committees ran, and we did the work of CLEAR and made sure that we had the annual educational conference ready. But really my role as president was to be an ambassador for CLEAR – making sure that new members found CLEAR, and that existing members stayed and really appreciated and contributed to what it had to offer. CLEAR is such a great organization to share information, allowing us to learn lessons from other regulators, to collaborate, and find ways to be innovative and share best practices. It’s really provided a great asset to my role as the division director. I rely a lot on my fellow CLEAR members and on CLEAR as an organization. I always have the ability to tap into the resources offered there, always find innovative policies that are happening by other members and share that information, and really just gain some confidence in how we manage as a state in our professional regulatory policy to make sure that we are able to get professionals to work without compromising health or safety. Everybody at CLEAR has that same goal, to do that with integrity in the best way that we can serve licensees.

Are there any big lessons that you took away from your time at CLEAR?

My biggest lesson is that I always have more to learn. I think that Colorado does an amazing job. I think that we’re a leader and at the forefront of regulation. We’re definitely a lighter-touch state for regulation. But I’m always amazed seeing the dedication of other members and how much we’re able to learn from each other every single day. We often face the same issues; we face the same challenges – whether it’s a workforce challenge or a policy challenge. Oftentimes we’re facing the same thing and we’re able to find solutions for our own states by collaborating with each other.

How does the kind of regulating that DORA does address the vast complexity from profession to profession?

Every profession is unique. Fortunately, many of our programs have boards so we’re able to rely on their expertise to show how that profession is unique and that the regulation might be unique in a manner that we might not always appreciate in the day-to-day practice of that profession – whether it’s nursing, podiatry, or massage therapy. We rely heavily on board members or experts.

But there are also a lot of commonalities. One of the things that I’ve done as division director is try to find more of those commonalities. We’ve had a centralized licensing team for years, so we’re able to have a very systematic process that’s unique to the qualifications that are required, but still the same process for online licensing applications.

One of the things that I focused on is where we can leverage the similarities and not negate where they’re unique. One of the places that I did that is how we handled complaints. Where each board had previously handled their own complaints, I developed a centralized complaint intake team. The best part of that was not just to find ways to do it faster, but to find a way to do it more consistently to make sure that we were thinking about how to reduce the time for a complaint, for the respondent to receive that notification, and to also make sure that the complainant had a faster resolution. We were able to use some technology to move that through. As we move to a new platform, we want to reduce the duplication of efforts, improve our tracking, and make sure that cases are heard.

Before this team, each of the 50 program areas had their own process. There were inconsistencies in the complaint process – complaints might be sent to investigation or sent to boards in different ways, and it could take up to 10 days if not longer – and this team has really exceeded my expectations. When we receive over 6,000 cases a year, they took the 10 days down to 1.5 days and they continue to do that, which is an amazing feat. It not just reduces the duplication of efforts, but it allows the team to focus on what case might be a priority, what case might need to be addressed more quickly. It was one of our division’s important goals to make sure that we’re reducing the life of a whole case/complaint, and we’ve been able to do that as well and reduced it from 100 days down to 70 days. We’re thinking about how we can do it better, but also how we can protect consumers more effectively and give licensees a timely resolution.

What are the arguments for centralization? What are some of the drawbacks of a centralized model?

Obviously, we had a little bit of resistance when we centralized the intake team among – not all boards – but we had to engage the boards on why we were doing it and let them know that they still had their autonomy. If they needed more information or needed an investigation, they still had the autonomy to do that, this was just the front-end processing. That’s been a huge benefit, but I think that’s the balance. The boards still have their autonomy, but we’re able to centralize certain functions. For a long time, the division has had centralized investigations as well, so a very small team of investigators investigates for all 50 programs, and the boards are familiar with that. Having those communications and being transparent with them, and reinforcing that they had their autonomy, was an important aspect of that.

Can you tell me about the ways in which you might work with your peers from other states?

The primary way that I work with my peers in other states is through CLEAR. Knowing who to reach out to, knowing particularly who the other umbrella agencies are, and if you need a resource or have a question – even if they’re not an umbrella agency and you just have a specific question on a particular program or board – you are able to reach out. If you don’t know somebody, CLEAR will direct you to somebody, so that’s always been a great benefit of CLEAR.

Also, being involved in CLEAR for so long, I do know many of my counterparts and we often do collaborate, whether it’s just to pick up the phone and ask a question, or an email, and making sure we’re taking advantage of how we might best address a problem because most often my peers have faced the same problem.

Colorado is a great example of the kind of inter-agency collaboration that’s very sensible and ought to be pursued. Can you name any other shining examples that you’ve seen?

We rely on our neighbor state, Utah. As an umbrella agency, they’re formed very similar to us – I always admire them. I have a good relationship with the director in Vermont, they’re much smaller but they’ve done some innovative work. Some states only have an umbrella over health care, but even with that, it’s still a huge benefit. I’ve worked with Alaska a little bit for the health care piece. But there are states everywhere that are doing such great work, it’s hard to name just one or two.

Read Part 2 of Paul Leavoy’s conversation with Ronne Hines, where they discuss the role regulatory agencies can play in alleviating labor shortages, digital transformation and regulatory resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, regulatory reform and challenges, and more.



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Ariel Visconti
Written byAriel Visconti
Ariel Visconti researches and writes on government and politics, regulation, occupational licensing, and emerging technologies.


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