By Iris Hentze
Were legislators as interested in occupational licensing legislation in 2019 as they have been in recent years? The answer is yes!
In 2019, NCSL counted 1,229 pieces of legislation introduced in the states on occupational licensing. Ultimately, 449 were enacted and became law with at least one piece of occupational licensing-related legislation introduced in each of the 50 states in 2019. As in past years, a few key trends stuck out as particularly popular among the states.
- States continued to examine their processes and governance related to occupational licensing by introducing 397 pieces of legislation related to the unique challenges of state occupational regulation systems. Many bills in this area were concerned with the oversight and operation of state licensing boards.
For example, Louisiana passed HB 423, prohibiting licensing boards from revoking an individual’s license based on her or his student loan status. Louisiana follows the trend of states like Illinois and Arkansas, which, in recent years, have passed similar legislation. West Virginia passed HB 2204 in 2019, prohibiting licensing boards in the state from hiring lobbyists to lobby state policymakers on behalf of the board. Many of the remaining 208 pieces of legislation enacted in this area were either related to the passage of sunrise or sunset provisions or were sunrise and/or sunset reviews of occupational regulation.
- In 2019, licensure mobility and interstate compacts continued to be relevant as states introduced nearly 100 bills on these topics.
- Arizona and Pennsylvania both garnered attention with their universal reciprocity bills, AZ HB 2569 and PA HB 1172, respectively. Both pieces of legislation allow for reciprocity for many licensed occupations in the two states, so long as the applicant meets some basic requirements, pays all necessary fees, and is a resident of the state. The bulk of the rest of the mobility-related bills include more traditional state-to-state reciprocity agreements and legislation authorizing states to join various compacts. Delaware passed legislation to join the Physical Therapy Licensure Compacts through SB 83, and Indiana joined the Advanced Nurse Licensure Compacts through HB 1344.
- Legislation addressing barriers faced by individuals with criminal records, when attempting to gain an occupational license or employment in a field that requires one, continued to be popular in 2019.
NCSL tracked 94 pieces of legislation introduced on this topic, with 43 bills ultimately being enacted. A number of states adopted legislation preventing licensure boards from automatically rejecting applicants due to their criminal history alone.
In Alabama, SB 163 allows individuals to petition state courts to obtain an Order of Limited Relief. The order prevents occupational licensing boards from denying an individual a license based solely on a criminal record. Maryland passed HB 22, prohibiting the state’s departments that issue occupational licenses from denying an applicant outright based only on a criminal record. Illinois passed HB 2670, defining mitigating factors in statute and providing that those mitigating factors cannot be an outright bar to licensure. The legislation also guides the state’s Department of Professional Regulation on how to consider criminal history when an individual with a criminal record applies for an occupational license.
In 2020, NCSL will continue to track occupational licensing legislation in the states. We will update our legislative database weekly and keep up on the latest trends.
A few bills have already been filed or introduced, including legislation from Kentucky that would enter the state into the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact, and legislation from West Virginia that would create a process for converting military experience to a license in the state for a select group of occupations.
To learn more about trends in occupational licensing regulation from 2019, tune into NCSL’s webinar "2019 Trends in Occupational Licensing" on Jan. 17, at 1 p.m. ET.
Iris Hentze is a policy associate in NCSL's Employment, Labor and Retirement Program.