PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A South Dakota licensing panel has changed its policy to allow refunds for people who apply to be midwives but withdraw or are denied.

South Dakota law sets the application and initial license fee at $1,000. The state Board of Certified Professional Midwives decided Thursday to give $500 back to any future applicant who doesn’t get a South Dakota license.

Board members said they want the new policy put on the application form and the application.

The policy change raises a question of interpretation about the state law that was passed two years ago, when the Legislature created the regulatory board.

State law says the fees are nonrefundable.

For example, the fee for a two-year renewal of the license is $1,500.

The board controls and regulates people who practice in South Dakota as a certified professional midwife or a certified professional midwife student.

South Dakota currently has licensed four certified professional midwives and two certified professional midwife students, according to Derrick Haskins, communications director for the state Department of Health. The board is attached to the department.

State law defines a midwife as a person who who would “manage and care for the low-risk mother-baby unit in an out-of-hospital setting during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum periods.”

Two pieces of midwife legislation passed in 2017. Senator Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, was prime sponsor of the measure creating the board and establishing the fees. Its lead sponsor in the House was Representative Lee Qualm of Platte, the chamber’s Republican leader.

Then-Governor Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, and members of his administration didn’t take a position on Greenfield-Qualm bill at legislative committees’ hearings.

Speaking in favor of the Greenfield bill at the Senate hearing were Debbie Pease of Centerville, who now is the state board’s chairwoman, and Pat Schwaiger of Billings, Montana, who now is the board’s vice president.

Daugaard’s secretary of health, Kim Malsom-Rysdon, and the state Board of Nursing executive director Gloria Damgaard testified in support of a different bill affecting midwifery.

Its prime sponsor was a registered nurse, Senator Deb Soholt, a Sioux Falls Republican. Her lead sponsor in the House was another registered nurse, Representative Jean Hunhoff, a Yankton Republican.

The South Dakota State Medical Association, which represents physicians, opposed both bills at various points.

The midwives board’s meeting Thursday was conducted by teleconference. Justin Williams, a state government attorney representing the state health department, advised the board that some of the department’s other boards offer partially refundable fees.

Williams said the midwives-fees law uses the word “nonrefundable” but the board’s rule says a person “licensed to practice in the state” shall pay an initial fee of $1,000.

Williams suggested the board consider possibly changing the administrative rule’s language to separate the initial into an application fee and a license fee. He said the $1,000 fee was “relatively high.”

“I think that would make it 100 percent clear,” Williams told chairwoman Pease about the two-pronged approach.

He added, “From a fairness perspective that seems like a good idea.”

Board member Susan Rooks, a certified professional midwife from Oral, said she preferred charging an application fee of $500.

Pease proposed breaking the $1,000 fee in half, with a $500 refund if the applicant didn’t receive a South Dakota license.

Pease indicated she wanted to avoid the expense of going through a rule-change hearing. The board currently meets twice per year, with the next meeting in March by teleconference.

“For now we’re just going to put it in policy,” Pease said.

Williams said the board was interpreting the rule. Pease said the law gives the board the authority to charge “up to” $1,000 for the application. “Yes, that’s correct,” Williams said. “So all we can do is play with the thousand dollars,” Pease told the board.

The vote was 5-0 for the change.