Regulation of optometrists traces to 1907 Territorial law, which required a certificate of registration to practice optometry. Current statutory authority is found at §§32-1701 through 32-1771.
The practice of the profession of optometry means the examination or refraction of the human eye in order to diagnose or treat any visual, muscular, neurological or anatomical anomalies of the eye. The State Board of Optometry (Board) licenses and regulates the profession in order to promote the safe and professional practice of optometry.
The Board regulates the profession, licenses optometrists, investigates complaints of unprofessional conduct, disciplines violators and provides information to the public. The Board consists of seven members, appointed by the Governor to four-year terms.
Optometrists’ authority to prescribe, dispense and administer pharmaceuticals is found at A.R.S. §32-1706.
The predecessor to the State Board of Optometry (Board) was established by Laws 1907, Chapter 29. The Arizona Territorial Board of Examiners in Optometry consisted of three members, appointed by the Governor to four-year terms. The law outlined Board organization and responsibilities, fixed Board compensation, and provided for enforcement of the law. A certificate had to be renewed each year and recorded in the county of residence.
The Revised Statutes of Arizona, 1913 Civil Code, Paragraphs 4767 - 4778 defined the
practice of optometry as “employment of subjective and objective means to determine the accommodative and refractive states of the eye and the scope of its functions in general.” The law created the Arizona State Board of Examiners in Optometry with three board members appointed by the Governor to a term of 4 years. Laws 1913, Second Special Session, Chapter 73.
Laws 1925, Chapter 60 repealed and rewrote the 1913 optometry laws, renaming the agency as the Arizona State Board of Optometry. The measure described the practice of optometry; required a certificate of registration to practice; outlined Board membership, compensation, organization and responsibilities; established fees; and provided for disciplinary measures and enforcement. The measure also regulated the conduct of optometric departments in stores and business establishments.
Laws 1945, Chapter 59 revised provisions regarding application procedures, the examination process, and educational requirements.
Laws 1954, Chapter 143 repealed previous law and enacted the “Optometry Law” which organized optometry statutes into the following divisions: definitions; regulation of practice; examinations; registration; renewal of certificates; revocation of certificate; notice and hearing on Board action to suspend or revoke a certificate; fees; Board organization, powers and duties; and penalties.
Laws 1979, Chapter 50 increased Board membership to five members, established continuing education requirements, modified conditions to obtain and renew a certificate, and provided for appeals of Board decisions.
Laws 1980, Chapter 248 repealed, revised and reenacted statutory provisions related to optometry. Among other provisions, the measure renamed the Board as the State Board of Optometry, transferred powers, equipment and funds to the new Board, authorized the use of certain approved diagnostic pharmaceutical agents (effective January 1, 1982), provided for continuation of current licenses, included a legislative intent clause and made an appropriation.
The 1980 enactment also required the Arizona Department of Health Services to conduct statewide hearings to consider the use of diagnostic pharmaceuticals by optometrists, study the potential impact of Laws 1980, Chapter 248, Section 4, and develop recommendations regarding the legislation including alternatives. A report describing the findings of the hearing panels and recommendations was due from the ADHS to the Legislature by January 1, 1981.
The 1980 measure also established a committee to develop criteria for a course of study in clinical pharmacology for optometrists. The committee consisted of the president of the Board of Optometry, the chair of the U of A college of medicine pharmacology department, and the chair of the U of A college of medicine department of ophthalmology. The measure required criteria to be adopted and transmitted to the Board of Optometry by January 1, 1981.
Laws 1985, Chapter 297 was a lengthy sunset continuation bill that also established the Board of Optometry Fund. The measure required monies that came into the possession of the Board would be transmitted to the State Treasurer who would deposit 10 percent to the state general fund and deposit 90 percent to the Board of Optometry Fund.
Laws 1993, Chapter 51 established requirements for certificates of special qualification to use pharmaceutical agents. The measure also established educational requirements for optometrists, who were licensed at the time the measure was enacted, to use topical pharmaceutical agents.
Laws 1997, Chapter 160 established requirements for dispensing replacement soft contact lenses, provided exemptions and required registration with the Board. Provisions relating to dispensing contact lenses were modified in 2011. In 2013, provisions were repealed and replaced with language that required sales and prescriptions for contact lenses in the state to comply with federal law. See Laws 2011, Chapter 179 and Laws 2013, Chapter 186.
Laws 1999, Chapter 282 expanded the scope of practice for optometrists, allowing prescription, dispensation and administration of specific pharmaceutical agents.
Laws 2007, Chapter 59 allowed optometrists to prescribe antihistamines. Additional legislative enactments have authorized expansion of practice for the use of pharmaceuticals. See discussion and recommendations of the sunrise hearing regarding expansion of the scope of practice for optometrists, conducted by the Senate Health and House of Representatives Health Committee of Reference, November 20, 2006. Minutes are available on the legislative website. www.azleg.gov/iminute/house/47leg/2r/112006SenHealthCorHealth.pdf
Laws 2007, Chapter 65 allowed the Board to issue a nondisciplinary order requiring a licensee to complete a prescribed number of continuing education hours, in lieu of taking disciplinary action against the licensee.
Laws 2010, Chapter 58 allowed optometrists to prescribe, dispense and administer oral macrolides and oral antiviral medication for the treatment of diseases of the eye. A sunrise hearing conducted by the House of Representatives Health and Human Services and Senate Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform Committee of Reference recommended legislation be drafted for consideration by the full Legislature. Minutes from the meeting are available on the legislative website: www.azleg.gov/iminute/house/49leg/1r/110909SenateHealthHouseHhsCor.pdf
Laws 2011, Chapter 179 modified the composition of the Board, increasing the number of optometrist members from four to five, total membership from six to seven, and providing for staggered four-year terms. Current members continued to serve on the Board until the expiration of their term. The measure also revised provisions regarding prescription of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents by licensees and modified the article heading of Title 32, Chapter 16, Article 5 from “Replacement Soft Contact Lenses” to “Nonresident Dispensers of Replacement Soft Contact Lenses.”
Laws 2013, Chapter 186 modified Board membership to include five licensed optometrists and two public members. The position for a physician member was eliminated. The measure also modified the process for Board investigations, repealed the requirement to maintain a registry for nonresident dispensers of replacement soft contact lenses, and instead, required sales and prescriptions for contact lenses in the state to comply with federal law.
Laws 2014, Chapter 262 modified requirements related to the use of pharmaceutical agents.
Laws 2019, Chapter 195 allowed the Board to authorize its executive director to issue licenses, certifications, registrations, preceptorships, reinstatements and waivers to eligible applicants who meet the requirements identified in the statute. In addition, the Board may issue temporary licenses of thirty days to qualified applicants who meet the statutory requirements and may adopt rules to carry out the new provisions
A second enactment in 2019 requires the Board to regulate the unauthorized practice of the profession by investigating complaints and referring verified complaints to the county attorney or attorney general for prosecution. See Laws 2019, Chapter 227.
- Arizona Revised Statutes §§32-1701 through 32-1771
- Revised Statutes of Arizona, 1913, Civil Code, Title XLVIII, Chapter 3, Paragraphs 4767 -
- Session Laws
- Laws 1907, Chapter 29:
- Laws 1913, Second Special Session, Chapter 73
- Laws 1925, Chapter 60
- Laws 1945, Chapter 59
- Laws 1954, Chapter 143
- Laws 1979, Chapter 50
- Laws 1980, Chapter 248
- Laws 1985, Chapter 297
- Laws 1993, Chapter 51
- Laws 1997, Chapter 160
- Laws 1999, Chapter 282
- Laws 2007, Chapter 59 and Chapter 65
- Laws 2010, Chapter 58
- Laws 2011, Chapter 179
- Laws 2013, Chapter 186
- Laws 2014, Chapter 262
- Laws 2019, Chapter 195 and Chapter 227
Senate Health and House of Representatives Health Committee of Reference, November 20,
Senate Healthcare and Medical Liability Reform and House of Representatives Health and
Human Services Committee of Reference: Sunrise application of Arizona Optometric Association. November 9, 2009:
Related Collections at Arizona State Archives
Record Group 068 – State Board of Optometry