Hearing testimony on the value of occupational licensing, members of a House subcommittee generally agreed that the question of whether certain professions are over-regulated should be left to the states to answer.
Just weeks after legislatures in two states passed measures addressing occupational licensing and the use of professional credentials, the issue arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with members of a House subcommittee hearing testimony on licensing and its effects on economic growth. Lawmakers acknowledged the issue should be left primarily to the states to determine whether over-regulation is creating barriers to employment.
“Occupational licensing plays an important role in protecting consumers and ensuring high-quality service,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), who chairs the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. “In many cases, it makes sense that a professional would be credentialed to operate, like in the case of a doctor performing surgery or a pilot flying a commercial plane. But in other instances, the need for a license is more of a stretch.”
Albert Downs, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the number of licensed professionals in the U.S. has ballooned to one in four workers.
“Research suggests that, in some cases, licensing can benefit the public by limiting the risk of public health and safety hazards arising from the incompetent practice of a given occupation or profession,” Downs said. “In many more cases, the risk of harm to public health and safety is not well established, and research shows that consumer welfare is unchanged, or sometimes reduced, by licensing regulations.”
Robert McNamara, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, testified that voluntary certification is “one of the most important, and often overlooked, alternatives to occupational licensing.”
Occupational licensing reform has been a hot issue for state legislatures in 2018. Earlier this year, associations took issue with licensing reform legislation in Louisiana and Missouri. In both states, the bill authors wanted to address over-regulation of different occupations, but critics, including ASAE, said the bills overreached into the realm of nongovernmental professional certifications.
ASAE is talking with Missouri legislative staff about whether there’s a fix that clarifies the value of voluntary certification but doesn’t require corrective legislation and will be working with a coalition of like-minded organizations concerned about state certification/licensing legislation around the country.