PA 08-81—sSB 272

General Law Committee

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING SHORTHAND REPORTERS AND THE REGISTRATION OF LOCKSMITHS

SUMMARY: This act (1) adds to the grounds on which the State Board of Examiners of Shorthand Reporters may impose discipline, (2) allows the board to impose a civil penalty of up to $1,000, and (3) requires licensed shorthand reporters to display their license number on business documents.

In addition, the act requires locksmiths to register with the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). It establishes registration procedures, requires a $200 registration fee, sets grounds for discipline, and authorizes discipline.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2008

SHORTHAND REPORTERS

Discipline

This act authorizes the board to suspend or revoke a shorthand reporter's license after a hearing for:

1. knowingly making a false, misleading, or deceptive representation relating to employment as a shorthand reporter;

2. violating regulations relating to shorthand reporting; or

3. a felony conviction in accordance with the law on denial of a state credential based on prior conviction.

The act allows anyone who has had a license revoked or suspended on these grounds, but not on other grounds for disciplinary action, to apply for reinstatement (1) no earlier than 90 days after a revocation or (2) immediately after the suspension period has elapsed.

The law already allows the board to take disciplinary actions, including license suspension and revocation, on specified grounds, such as failing to deliver a transcript to a client or court in a timely manner or producing an incomplete transcript. The act adds producing a materially inaccurate transcript as a ground for disciplinary action.

License Numbers

The act requires each shorthand reporter to display his or her license number on business cards, stationery, transcripts, advertisements, or other practice-related documents.

Civil Penalty

The act authorizes the board to impose, after a hearing, a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for:

1. violating any provision of the shorthand reporter law or

2. willfully employing or supplying for employment, as an employee or an independent contractor, a person who engages in the practice of shorthand reporting in this state in violation of the shorthand reporter licensing law.

LOCKSMITHING

The act requires anyone engaged in locksmithing to register with DCP. The application fee and the biennial renewal fee are $200 each. It prohibits anyone who is not registered from engaging in locksmithing; using the title “locksmith; ” or using any words, letters, figures, title, advertisement, or other method to indicate he or she is a locksmith. Registrations are not transferable or assignable. The act requires registered locksmiths to renew their registration even if they did not receive a notice of expiration or a renewal application.

“Locksmithing” is inspecting, installing, recombining, rekeying, servicing, or repairing locks or locking devices, with specified exemptions.

The act authorizes DCP to adopt implementing regulations.

Registration

The act requires applicants to apply in writing to DCP on a form the commissioner provides. The application must include the applicant's name, residence and business addresses, business telephone number, felony conviction information from any state or jurisdiction, and other DCP-required information.

The act requires applicants to agree to a recent criminal history records check and prohibits DCP from registering an applicant without the results of such a check. The act authorizes the commissioner to revoke or refuse to issue or renew a registration if an applicant's criminal history records check reveals that the applicant has been convicted of a crime of dishonesty, fraud, theft, assault, other violent offense, or a crime related to locksmithing. The commissioner's actions must be in accordance with the law on denial of a state credential based on a prior conviction and after a hearing held according to the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) (see BACKGROUND).

Registry

The act requires DCP to establish a locksmith registry containing the names and addresses of registered locksmiths and other information determined by the DCP commissioner. It must be (1) updated at least annually, (2) available to the public upon request, and (3) published on DCP's website.

Locksmith Requirements

The act requires registered locksmiths to (1) visibly display their registration, or a copy of it, at their place of business and any branch; (2) show it on request; and (3) include their registration number in advertisements. The act defines “registration” as a DCP-issued document or card that certifies that the locksmith (1) has completed an application form and paid the registration fee, (2) successfully passed the required criminal history records check, (3) is not otherwise barred from becoming a locksmith, and (4) has been added to the registry of locksmiths.

Prohibited Activities

The act prohibits:

1. presenting or attempting to present another's registration as one's own;

2. knowingly giving false evidence of a material nature to the DCP commissioner to obtain a registration;

3. representing himself or herself falsely as a registered locksmith;

4. knowingly using or attempting to use an expired, suspended, or revoked registration;

5. offering to perform a locksmith service without having a current registration;

6. representing in any way that a registration constitutes an endorsement of the quality of workmanship or competency by the DCP commissioner;

7. employing or allowing a person to act as a salesman unless he or she is directly employed by the locksmith; or

8. advertising a location or branch as a place of business without having the right to occupy it.

Enforcement

The act authorizes DCP to (1) investigate and hold hearings on any matter related to locksmith registration and (2) issue subpoenas, administer oaths, compel testimony, and order the production of documents as part of the investigations.

The act authorizes the DCP commissioner or the attorney general to apply to Superior Court for appropriate enforcement orders if anyone refuses to appear, testify, or produce any document when ordered. The act authorizes the attorney general, at the commissioner's request, to apply to Superior Court for temporary or permanent restraining orders.

Grounds for Discipline

The act authorizes DCP to revoke, suspend, place conditions on, or refuse to renew a registration for:

1. conduct likely to mislead, deceive, or defraud the public or the commissioner;

2. engaging in any untruthful or misleading advertising;

3. unfair or deceptive business practices;

4. gross incompetence; or

5. violating any provision of the locksmith registration law.

Penalties

The act empowers the DCP commissioner, after notice and hearing held in accordance with the UAPA, to impose a civil penalty on any person who:

1. engages in locksmithing without a registration,

2. willfully employs or supplies for employment an unregistered person,

3. willfully and falsely pretends to qualify as a locksmith,

4. engages in locksmithing with an expired registration, or

5. violates any provisions of the locksmithing registration law.

The penalty may be (1) up to $500 dollars for a first violation, (2) up to $750 for a second violation occurring within three years after a prior violation, and (3) up to $1,500 for a third or subsequent violation occurring within three years after a prior violation. Proceeds from imposing these penalties must be deposited in the Consumer Protection Enforcement Account (see BACKGROUND).

Additionally, the act makes a violation of its locksmith registration provisions an unfair trade practice.

Exempt Activities and Individuals

The act exempts the following activities from “locksmithing”:

1. recombining or rekeying locks or cylinders by a retail or wholesale employee on an employer's property;

2. installing or repairing locks by a registered major contractor or home improvement contractor incidental to the construction of a building;

3. installing, maintaining, repairing, or servicing a vending machine;

4. selling or duplicating keys or selling key-duplicating equipment by a retail store; and

5. working on one's own residence.

It additionally exempts the following people, if they do not represent themselves as locksmiths:

1. people employed by a state, municipality, or other political subdivision, or by a federal agency or department, acting in their official capacity;

2. automobile service dealers who service, install, repair, or rebuild automobile locks;

3. retail merchants selling locks or similar security accessories or installing, programming, repairing, maintaining, reprogramming, rebuilding, or servicing electronic garage door devices;

4. members of the building trades who install or remove complete locks or locking devices in the course of residential or commercial new construction or remodeling;

5. employees of towing services, repossessors, or an automobile club representative or employee opening automotive locks in the normal course of their business (The act specifies that it exempts towing service employees who open a motor vehicle to move it without towing. );

6. locksmithing students in DCP-approved programs;

7. warranty services by a lock manufacturer on its own products;

8. maintenance employees of property owners or property management companies at multi-family residential buildings, who service, install, repair, or open locks for tenants; and

9. security personnel at schools or institutions of higher education who open locks in the course of their employment.

BACKGROUND

Felony Conviction

The law generally provides that no one may be disqualified from practicing or engaging in any profession or trade for which a credential is required solely because of a prior conviction unless the credentialing agency considers (1) the nature of the crime and its relationship to the job, (2) the degree of rehabilitation, and (3) the time since the conviction or release and determines that the applicant is not suitable for the specific profession or trade (CGS 46a-80).

Consumer Protection Enforcement Account

The statutorily established account is funded with revenue generated from imposing fines for licensing law violations and with up to $400,000 per year from the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund. DCP must use the account “to fund positions and other related expenses” to enforce the licensing and registration laws it administers (CGS 21a-8a).

Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA)

This law prohibits businesses from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts or practices. CUTPA allows the DCP commissioner to issue regulations defining what constitutes an unfair trade practice, investigate complaints, issue cease and desist orders, order restitution in cases involving less than $5,000, enter into consent agreements, ask the attorney general to seek injunctive relief, and accept voluntary statements of compliance. The act also allows individuals to sue. Courts may issue restraining orders; award actual and punitive damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys fees; and impose civil penalties of up to $5,000 for willful violations and $25,000 for violation of a restraining order.

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