The NCSL Blog


By Zach Herman

How state licensing regulatory structures differ, the unintended consequences of licensing reform and how to sustain efforts as the Occupational Licensing Consortium wraps up were just some of the points of discussion during the third and final annual Multi-State Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium Meeting.

From left to right: Suzanne Hultin, program director at the NCSL employment labor and retirement program; Rachael Stephens program director at the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; and Heather Shaffer Deputy Director of the Council of State Governments Center for Innovation..The meeting, held Sept. 11-12 in Park City, Utah, assembled nearly 150 state lawmakers and legislative staff, governors’ office staff, state agency and department heads, industry association representatives, occupational licensing board members, economists and researchers to discuss ways to reduce barriers to occupational licensing. 

The meeting was put on by NCSL’s Employment, Labor and Retirement Program in partnership with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and The Council of State Governments Center for Innovation.  

During the two-and-a-half-day meeting, attendees experienced a mix of workshops and panels led by experts, as well as facilitated state time where teams worked on and developed action plans for occupational licensing in their states.

Fourteen state teams attended the meeting, including Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, Nevada, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. Each state brought a team of roughly six people, representing the legislature, governor’s office, state agencies and regulatory boards

Speakers Kaitlyn Spehar, a policy analyst for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and Senator John Walsh (D) of Delaware discussed ways states can institutionalize best practices in occupational licensing by explaining policies and practices their state has integrated into its regulatory systems for licensed occupations. For example, Spehar discussed how the Pennsylvania office of intergovernmental affairs focused on outreach to those directly affected by licensing.

Two meeting sessions focused on the spectrum of ways professions can be regulated. Speakers from the Council on Licensing Enforcement and Regulation, the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards and World Education Services discussed the models used by other countries to regulate their professions and the spectrum regulatory models across each state in the nation. Attendees learned that state regulatory systems vary greatly, from independent, autonomous boards to centralized regulatory agencies.

Other sessions of note:

  • Board members and directors of interstate compacts led a panel on licensing compacts.
  • Six breakout sessions allowed for some deep dives into hot topics and the connections between licensing and workforce development.
  • Hot topics sessions covered interstate portability in the form of interstate compacts, new research from scholars at Saint Francis University, the University of Vermont and Utah State University, and best practices in reducing time and burdens associated with licensure.
  • Workforce development sessions discussed competency-based assessments, aligning licensing with apprenticeships, and new ways to use technology and data.

States heard from each other on successes from the previous years as members of the consortium. These included passage of many pieces of legislation, the creation of task forces, the centralizing and collection of data, and new partnerships with other government organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Justice. States also shared their plans to sustain their momentum past the formal end of the Occupational Licensing Consortium in June of 2020. More information about the 2019 Occupational Licensing Multi-State Consortium can be found online here.

Zach Herman is a research analyst in the NCSL Employment, Labor & Retirement Program.

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.