In recent years, states have reformed licensing measures to ease licensing burdens for professionals moving between states. Reciprocity laws and state compacts are statutorily enacted agreements among states allowing licensees to practice across state lines and improve mobility. These agreements create a standardized list of requirements, scope of practice parameters, and implement a consistent approach for all compact member states.
Forty-five states have adopted at least one compact and 230 pieces of occupational licensure compact legislation over nine different professions. Recent reforms have specifically focused on healthcare mobility with the goal of supporting relocation and retention while also maintaining state sovereignty in the regulation of health-related professions. Specifically, professional counseling compacts have been implemented in Nebraska and West Virginia, as well as Washington and Utah with the goal of improving public access to mental health resources. Nursing and occupational therapy compacts have also steadily gained state membership. For example, Rhode Island and Utah have refined their nursing compacts in 2022.
Universal Licensure Recognition
Universal License Recognition (ULR) is a form of occupational licensing in which a state establishes a uniform process to grant recognition to professional licenses issued by another state. In total, 19 states have enacted ULR laws, with the majority of legislation being introduced between 2019-2022. Ohio and Vermont joined the trend in 2022. Although many states have incorporated universal licensure provisions, they do not follow the same rules as reciprocity laws. The scope of “universal” recognition and what’s required of applicants still varies from state-to-state.
This trend has continued into 2023 with Virginia passing universal licensure recognition in March, which will become effective in July of this year.
Reducing Barriers for Veterans and Military Spouses
In 2022, 49 bills across 22 states were introduced and 25 were passed related to the common goal of reducing barriers to licensing for veterans, military personnel and their spouses. States have taken varied approaches to accomplish this goal. For example, California has reduced the initial licensing fee by 50% for contractors for honorably discharged veterans. Massachusetts and Michigan provide for portability of professional licenses for military spouses and service members.
Some states have established “equivalent credit” provisions for military members who have completed licensure requirements as a part of their military training. Tennessee provides that members of US armed forces are eligible to receive equivalent credit toward an occupational license while serving in the armed forces if the training is consistent with requirements for licensure as determined by the applicable licensing authority. Georgia also stipulates that any current or former member of the military may apply to the licensing board for the immediate issuance of a license or certification based upon his or her having obtained a military specialty or certification which meets the requirements to obtain a specific license.
Recent legislation also reflects the conversation that licensing requirements may be creating more obstacles between workers and employers than are necessary for public safety. By expediting and simplifying licensing requirements or even doing away with licenses altogether, states are attempting to eliminate obstacles. Simplifying requirements can include measures such as reducing the number of training hours required for a license, reducing fees, recognizing licenses from other states, and creating alternative forms of certification for certain jobs.
Since 2017, beauty and cosmetology professions have seen a decline in education and experience in licensing requirements. A bill enacted this past year in Virginia reduces the number of hours required to obtain a cosmetology license by 33%.
In response to this conversation, some states, like Utah, have established occupational and professional licensure review offices to conduct sunrise reviews for applications to establish new regulated occupations. These offices will use data driven processes to reform licensure laws and ensure that unnecessary occupational licenses are not continually supported. Five states, Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island are re-evaluating the continued existence and functioning of various state licensing boards and professional licenses. Alabama enacted sunset laws for the Real Estate Commission and the State Board of Prosthetists. Similarly, Colorado has implemented sunset provisions for massage therapists and veterinary practices.