Official Opinion 2017-2

May 17, 2017
To: 

Chairman, State Board of Dispensing Opticians

Re: 

There is no conflict between O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016), which prohibits dispensing contact lenses or spectacles without a prescription, and O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016), which authorizes a licensed dispensing optician to duplicate lenses without a prescription, and a licensed dispensing optician still has the authority to duplicate and dispense lenses without a prescription.

The State Board of Dispensing Opticians (hereinafter the “Board”) has requested my official opinion regarding whether there is a conflict between O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016), which prohibits dispensing contact lenses or spectacles without a prescription, and O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016), which authorizes a licensed dispensing optician to duplicate lenses without a prescription.  Based on my review of the relevant statutes, I conclude that there is no conflict, and a licensed dispensing optician is still authorized to duplicate and dispense lenses without a prescription.  

The current law regulating dispensing opticians is found in O.C.G.A. §§ 43‑29‑1 through 43‑29‑22  (2016).  Under this law, a “dispensing optician” is defined as “an individual who is duly licensed to prepare and dispense lenses, spectacles, eyeglasses, contact lenses, and optical devices to the intended user thereof as specifically directed or authorized on the written prescription” of a physician or optometrist.  O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑2(2) (2016). 

Previously, this office issued an opinion to the then Georgia State Board of Examiners of Optometry[1] advising that a dispensing optician has the authority to duplicate “a contact lens from an original contact lens, without [an] examination,” and that “a dispensing optician may duplicate, replace or reproduce, without a prescription, only those lenses of a like character.”  1980 Op. Att’y Gen. 80-19, at 43, 44.  Shortly after issuance of this office’s opinion, the General Assembly amended the law for dispensing opticians.  That amendment reflects the current law,

O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016), regarding a dispensing optician’s authority to duplicate lenses. 

That provision states:

A dispensing optician may duplicate lenses without prescription, provided that a dispensing optician shall not substitute contact lenses for spectacles, eyeglasses, or other optical devices except as otherwise authorized in this chapter or engage in the diagnosis of diseases of the human eye or attempt to determine the refractive powers of the human eye or in any manner attempt to prescribe remedies for or treat diseases or ailments of human beings.

O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016).

In 1991, the General Assembly enacted O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12, commonly referred to as the “Contact Lens Law.”  1991 Ga. Laws 1003.  The Contact Lens Law prohibited the sale or dispensing of contact lenses by any person other than a licensed dispensing optician, an optometrist, or a licensed physician.  1991 Ga. Laws 1003.  You have pointed out that a portion of the Contact Lens Law currently states that “[a] person shall not dispense or adapt contact lenses or spectacles without first receiving authorization to do so by a written prescription, except when authorized orally to do so by a person licensed and regulated by Chapter 30 [optometrists] or 34 [physicians] of Title 43.”  O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016). 

The question presented by your inquiry is whether O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016), which prohibits dispensing or adapting contact lenses or spectacles without a prescription, and the language found in O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016), which authorizes a dispensing optician to duplicate lenses without a prescription, are in conflict or whether the two provisions can be read in pari materia.  See Sutton v. Garmon, 245 Ga. 685, 687 (1980).  Applying rules of statutory construction, I conclude that there is no conflict between the two aforementioned provisions, and a licensed dispensing optician may still duplicate and dispense lenses without a prescription.

First, “‘[r]epeals by implication are not favored by law, and a subsequent statute repeals prior legislative acts by implication only when they are clearly and indubitably contradictory, when they are in irreconcilable conflict with each other, and when they cannot reasonably stand together.’”  Id. at 687 (quoting Kilpatrick v. State, 243 Ga. 799 (1979)).  Second, “‘[w]hen a statute contains clear and unambiguous language, such language will be given its plain meaning . . . .’”  McKinney v. Fuciarelli, 298 Ga. 873, 874 (2016) (quoting Opensided MRI of Atlanta v. Chandler, 287 Ga. 406, 407 (2010)).  The plain language of O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12 (Supp. 2016) says nothing about a licensed dispensing optician’s authority to duplicate and dispense lenses.  In addition, the entire statute does not mention the term “duplicate” in any form or any similar term.  Consequently, the last sentence in O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016) does not address duplication of lenses or a licensed dispensing optician’s authority to duplicate and dispense lenses without a prescription. 

In contrast, Chapter 29 of Title 43, which is designed to regulate the practice of a licensed dispensing optician, expressly outlines the scope of a licensed dispensing optician’s authority.  As stated above, O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) provides, in part, “a dispensing optician may duplicate lenses without prescription . . . .”  O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016).  This provision, without question, authorizes a licensed dispensing optician to duplicate lenses without a prescription.  Although the question posed to this office by the Board is limited to the relationship between O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016) and O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016), the authority of a licensed dispensing optician to duplicate lenses is not limited to the latter Code section.  The authority to duplicate lenses is also found in O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑18(e) (2016).  That Code section states:

The services and appliances relating to optical dispensing shall be dispensed, furnished, or supplied to the intended wearer or user thereof only upon prescription issued by a physician or an optometrist; but duplications, replacements, reproductions, or repetitions may be done without prescription, in which event any such act shall be construed to be optical dispensing the same as if performed on the basis of an original prescription. 

O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑18(e) (2016) (emphasis added).  When interpreting a statute using rules of statutory construction, “we must presume that the General Assembly [has] full knowledge of the existing state of the law and [enacts a] statute with reference to it.”  In the Interest of M.D.H., 300 Ga. 46, 53 (2016).  Accordingly, with two separate statutes authorizing a licensed dispensing optician to duplicate lenses without a prescription, it would be unreasonable to attribute to the General Assembly an intention to repeal both provisions with merely the language found in the last sentence of O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016).  This is particularly so in light of the fact that O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12 (Supp. 2016) is silent on a licensed dispensing optician’s authority to duplicate lenses.  Furthermore, the last sentence in O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c)  (Supp. 2016), which lays out the prohibition on dispensing without a prescription, does not specifically reference licensed dispensing opticians. 

Accordingly, it is my official opinion that there is no conflict between O.C.G.A. § 31‑12‑12(c) (Supp. 2016), which prohibits dispensing contact lenses or spectacles without a prescription, and O.C.G.A. § 43‑29‑14(b) (2016), which authorizes a licensed dispensing optician to duplicate lenses without a prescription, and a licensed dispensing optician still has the authority to duplicate and dispense lenses without a prescription. 

Prepared by:

Wylencia Hood Monroe

Senior Assistant Attorney General

[1] In 1994, the General Assembly changed the name to the “State Board of Optometry.”  1994 Ga. Laws 853, 854.