Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's firing of part-time state workers earlier this month could force postponement of an exam set for next month for more than 200 people seeking state architecture licenses.

Several hundred part-time exam proctors have been terminated from their positions at the State and Consumer Services Agency, which administers exams and issues licenses for more than 2 million Californians each year seeking licenses in 225 professions ranging from dentists to cosmetologists to engineers.

Schwarzenegger announced the firings because the Legislature hasn't adopted a budget. If no budget is signed before mid-September, then the architecture exam will have to be rescheduled for sometime later in the fall.

Russ Heinrich, spokesman for the Consumer Services Agency, said the agency won an exemption to allow proctors to remain on the job for an acupuncture licensing exam earlier this month. But no such exemption is being sought for the architecture licensing exam in September, primarily because this special architecture license is not required for every architect practicing in the state.

If the budget impasse drags on further into September, professional license applicants could be hit in other ways. For example, cutbacks in staff could delay processing of license applications, leading to a backlog.

Asbestos Rule

It's a microscopic change, but a proposal from the California Air Resources Board to change the way asbestos concentrations are measured could have big impacts on construction projects throughout the state.

Air board staff workers earlier this summer proposed to change the definition of asbestos, which refers to a group of six minerals with specific characteristics, chiefly a fibrous texture. Asbestos is frequently used in industry and is valued for its fire-resistant properties. But fibers can penetrate deep into lung tissue and cause cancer and other lung diseases.

The Air Resources Board's current definition of asbestos is 20 years old and states that asbestos must be mitigated if its concentration in surrounding material is at least 0.25 percent. The proposal sets up a new standard of asbestos mitigation "at any detectable level" and requires a new test to detect lower concentrations than earlier tests.

"Industry experts tell us that if this revision is adopted it would likely result in a finding of asbestos at extremely small levels throughout the state," according to the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.

When asbestos is found at a construction site, state law requires safety procedures and special disposal procedures. As a result, the manufacturers association warns that the proposed revision could add to the cost and duration of construction projects.

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