In this issue

Div. 31 council report

Council passed a motion to modify the APA bylaws.

By Peter M. Oppenheimer, PhD

The APA Council of Representatives met Feb. 24 and 25, 2017, in Washington, D.C. One item is of particular importance to our State, Provincial, and Territorial Psychological Associations (SPTA) and our SPTA members: the council passed a motion to modify the APA bylaws that if approved by the membership will ensure that each and every SPTA and division has voting representation on the council. Since the council was established in 1946, the method by which APA allocates votes has never ensured that all divisions and SPTAs have at least one vote. APA uses the apportionment ballot that is sent to all APA members each fall to determine the composition of the council.

APA's constituencies come in many sizes. There are small SPTAs and some small divisions. The STPAs represent the interests of all psychologists within their state, province or territory. Their involvement in state and federal advocacy is essential to addressing the needs of our entire membership. Some important legislative initiatives have succeeded in the small states (i.e. prescription privileges), and small states have defended our profession from harmful legislation and policy as well. SPTAs provide local services to their members that APA and other nationally based groups cannot. The plan we have today is the 2001 “Modified Wildcard Plan.” It was implemented in 2003.

Briefly, Article V, Section 6 says:

  • First apportionment votes are divided by the totals for divisions and SPTAs.
  • The 162 seats are divided into the two pools (divisions and SPTAs) based on the total of votes in each category.
  • Seats are then allocated based on the number of each pool. If there are sufficient number of seats, each group is allocated one seat. If there are additional seats they are allocated according to the formula stated in Section 6.
  • There is no guarantee that every division or SPTA will get a vote. If there are insufficient seats allocated based on the apportionment ballot seats are given in rank order to the groups with the greater number of votes.

In 2010 the Caucus of State Provincial and Territorial Representatives (CSTPR) moved an item forward that would ensure that every division and STPA was allocated a seat. The item passed the council by more than a 2-to-1 majority. To change the APA bylaws a vote of the membership is required. The change must be approved by two-thirds of the voting members. Unfortunately, the item was approved by only 57 percent of the members and it was not adopted.

Now the system has failed. Until this year the SPTA pool was large enough to allocate at least one seat to each SPTA. But this year (legislative year 2018) the SPTA pool got only 36.3 percent of the vote. Thus, the SPTA with the least apportionment votes, the Association of Virgin Islands Psychologists, has lost its seat for the coming year.

Representatives Chester Copemann (USVI), Kenneth Bohm (MO) and I sponsored a new business item to reintroduce the 2010 proposal. The proposal is to change the language of the bylaws so that if either the SPTA or the division pool does not have sufficient votes to allocate at least one vote to each group with that pool, a vote or votes would be transferred from the other pool to enable each group to have a vote. The remaining seats would then be distributed by the existing formula. This is the minimal change needed to solve the problem.

We were able to get the item added to the agenda (no small feat) on Friday. The item was debated and voted on by the council on Saturday. The motion passed 139 to 17. I was moved by the statements many council members made in support of the motion. As in 2010, we will have a membership vote to approve the bylaws change. That vote will occur at the same time as the legislative year 2019 apportionment ballot. Voting will start Nov. 1.

If we are going to resolve this issue once and for all, we need to win the bylaws vote, and we need the support our SPTA leaders to do that. We will use our Listserv to send messages prior to and during the vote urging our SPTA members to unite in voting for support of this bylaws change and to vote their apportionment votes in support of their SPTA. Please forward these messages on your SPTA Listserv and other relevant lists.

Please also talk to your members about this important change. This year it is the USVI. More states could lose their votes in the future. If APA is to serve the diversity of its membership then all recognized constituencies must be included in governance. Our many voices can only be heard if we are all participants in the discussion, and we will not be able to tap our multitude of talents if we are not all included in the work of the association.