Nevada Reviews Legislative Success and Licensing Reform at In-State Consortium Meeting

Nevada hosted its 2019 Occupational Licensing Policy and Practice Learning Consortium In-State meeting on Sept. 6 in Las Vegas. The state’s Occupational Licensing Consortium Core Team of legislators, executive branch employees and regulatory board members convened to review this year’s progress and plan for future success. The Nevada officials were joined by representatives from The Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governor’s association to provide technical assistance and facilitation.

The Nevada Core Team reviewed notes from the second annual meeting of the Multi-State Learning Consortium in Clearwater, Fla. that took place in December 2018 and then reviewed relevant bills that passed in the 2019 legislative session. According to a legislative update released on June 19, 2019 by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau’s Research Division1, the legislature enacted 33 bills concerning occupational and professional licensing. Four bills concerned general matters affecting the majority of Nevada’s occupational and professional regulatory boards. Seventeen Bills were passed relating to the “healing arts,” including Oriental medicine, physical therapy, optometry and pharmacy. Twelve bills were enacted that relate to contractors, environmental health specialists, cosmetologists, teachers and other regulated professions.

According to the legislative update, “This session, regulators and legislators discussed the current landscape of licensing requirements and committed to improving their understanding of where Nevada’s laws may create unnecessary barriers to economic opportunity.” To quickly asses the general function of the state’s licensing boards, the legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 6 directing the existing Sunset Subcommittee of the Legislative Commission to conduct an interim study concerning professional and occupational licensing boards.2

Several bills were passed that focus on disproportionately affected populations, including immigrants with work authorization, veterans and military spouses, and individuals with criminal records.

  • AB275 prohibits a regulatory body from denying licensure of applicants based solely on their immigration or citizenship status as long as they are authorized to work in the U.S. and allows an applicant for a professional or occupational license who does not have a social security number to provide an individual taxpayer identification number.3
  • AB319 authorizes a person to petition a professional or occupational licensing board for a determination of whether the person’s criminal history will disqualify them from obtaining a license, requires a professional or occupational licensing board to implement a process for such a petition, and authorizes a regulatory body to post requirements for obtaining a license and a list of crimes that would disqualify a person for a license on its website. Additionally, the bill requires licensing boards to include certain information concerning the determinations of qualification or disqualification in their quarterly reports to the Legislative Counsel Bureau.4
  • SB100 requires expedited processing of applications for a license to teach for spouses of certain members of the military and requires school districts to consider a veteran’s Joint Services Transcript or a similar document to satisfy qualifications for certain jobs. The bill also permits members of the military and their spouses to obtain a license to teach through the alternative route to licensure program under certain circumstances, including if they obtained a teaching license in another state through an equivalent alternative route.5

Additional bills were passed that focus on occupations specifically targeted by Nevada’s Core Team.

State Contractors Board

  • AB25 changes various provisions governing contractors. The bill authorizes the State Contractors’ Board to delegate authority to hold certain hearings to a hearing officer or panel. It expands the period that a license applicant must have received certain experience before applying for a license. It repeals requirements that certain financial information must be reported to renew a residential construction contractor’s license, increases the period that a license may be inactive from five years to eight years and authorizes licensees on active duty in the military to apply to have their contractor’s license reinstated under certain circumstances.6
  • AB26 Revises provisions governing payments from the Recovery Fund by the State Contractors’ Board. The bill increases the amount of money that the State Contractors’ Board or its designee may pay out of the Recovery Fund to an injured person for certain claims against a residential contractor and increases the maximum amount of money that can be recovered from a claim against a single contractor. The act also revises the information that a residential contractor must include in certain written statements relating to the Recovery Fund.7
  • AB27 revises provisions for cease and desist orders issued by the State Contractors’ Board for acting as a contractor or submitting a bid on a job without a license. The act includes certain actions that the Board is required or authorized to take after issuing a cease and desist order, authorizes a person who is issued a cease and desist order to contest it within a certain period and describes the circumstances under which the order shall be deemed a final order of the Board.8

Nevada Physical Therapy Board

  • SB186 requires the Nevada Physical Therapy Board and the Board of Athletic Trainers to adopt regulations establishing the qualifications a physical therapist or an athletic trainer, as applicable, must obtain before he or she is authorized to perform dry needling.9

State Board of Cosmetology

  • SB208 revises the education and service requirements for hair designers and estheticians, removes the service of electrolysis from the definition of “cosmetologist” and revises the procedures for the issuing and activating a license for a cosmetological establishment. Specifically, this bill reduces the amount of training required to take the cosmetology exam from 1,200 hours to 1,000 for certain applicants and reduces the amount of service required as a hair designer’s apprentice from 2,400 hours to 2,000 hours.10

In addition to the legislative success Nevada has enjoyed, the state’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation partnered with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation on a $449,999 US Department of Labor grant. According to an Office of Workforce Innovation report11, the grant will be used to compare licensed occupations with the most in-demand occupations in the state, reexamine the state’s occupational licensure and focus its efforts to better serve dislocated workers, transitioning service members and veterans by identifying existing policies that create unnecessary barriers to the labor market.

Executive Director Cathy Dinauer of the Nevada State Board of Nursing presented on current efforts to address the shortage of nurses in the state. The lack of certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, is exacerbated by a lack of qualified instructors, a high failure rate among students (particularly in high school programs) and the prohibitive cost of education. In response, the Office of Workforce Innovation and the Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation awarded a grant to the Nevada System of Higher Education and the Nevada Action Coalition/Nevada Nursing and Workforce Center to create NVHOPE. NVHOPE’s purpose is to train registered nurses to become CNA instructors and to train unemployed/underemployed individuals to become CNAs at the College of Southern Nevada and Great Basin College. Three CNA trainers have graduated the program, with hopes to educate a total of 50. Until this year, there were no training programs in Nevada for licensed practical nurses, or LPNs, but the College of Southern Nevada received approval in January 2019 to open an LPN program. The Nevada Department of Education made progress in their project to start an LPN program in high schools when the State Board of Nursing approved their LPN standards in January 2019. Nevada is not currently part of the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC), and a bill that proposed joining the compact failed to garner a sponsor in the 2019 legislative session.

Nancy Mathias, The Nevada Contractors Board Licensing Administrator, gave the next update. The Board eliminated the requirement for businesses to undergo a financial review for licensing because the reviews were not found to have meaningful results or add to public protection. Additionally, the costs of the financial reviews were burdensome, especially for small companies. The Board is also taking steps to recognize master’s degrees and military experience for licensing purposes. According to the Contractors Board website, when a veteran applies for a contractor’s license the Board will assign a specialized staff member “trained to evaluate transferrable Military training and experience from all branches of the Military that meet minimum licensure requirements, in addition to evaluating college transcripts to help verify acceptable educational credit and experience.”12 Dedicated staff members are also available to assist military spouses to expedite the licensing process.

In a general discussion, the Nevada Core Team expressed continuing interest in license reciprocity to help alleviate shortages of key workers, including teachers and nurses. Stakeholders discussed additional ways to improve the licensing process for military spouses to lower their unemployment rate and fill vacancies in in-demand occupations. The team will continue to help persons with a criminal background reenter the workforce to lower recidivism. The team ended the day by planning for the third annual meeting of the Multi-State Learning Consortium in Park City, Utah, that took place Sept. 11-13.

As states across the country reassess professional licensing, Consortium states lead in licensing reform and legislative progress. The Nevada Core Team is committed to ongoing improvement of Nevada’s licensing environment and maintaining momentum after the Consortium grant ends.

Sources

  1. Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau Research Division. (June 19, 2019) Update to the Occupational Licensing Policy and Practice Learning Consortium Nevada Core Team
  2. NV SCR6. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6849/Overview
  3. NV AB275. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6498/Overview
  4. NV AB319. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6580/Overview
  5. NV SB100. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6088/Overview
  6. NV AB25. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/5925/Overview
  7. NV AB26. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/5926/Overview
  8. NV AB27. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/5927/Overview
  9. NV SB186. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6314/Overview
  10. NV SB208. Retrieved from https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6352/Overview
  11. Office of Workforce Innovation. (June 2018) January – June 2018 Semiannual Report to the Interim Finance Committee.
  12. Nevada State Contractor’s Board. (Oct 2019) Programs for Members of the Military, Military Spouses, and Veterans. http://www.nscb.nv.gov/vap.html

Virginia Becomes First State to Fully Digitize Professional Licensing

On Sept. 3, 2019, Virginia became the first state to fully digitize its professional licensing and credentialing system. Many professions take advantage of current technology to offer digital copies of licenses and certifications, but before September, no state offered universal electronic licensing. Through a partnership between the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and the free online credentialing service, Merit, all licensed professionals in Virginia will be able to receive a digital copy of their license. According to the 2018-2020 Virginia appropriations bill, electronic licenses now satisfy any statute or regulation that requires credentials to be posted, displayed or produced.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the partnership stating, “Electronic credentials will help cut red tape and modernize what is currently an antiquated system. The innovative use of technology by a state agency to streamline and enhance its services to Virginia’s citizens, consumers, workers and industry is one of the reasons why our Commonwealth is the best place for business.”

Starting immediately, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation will issue digital licenses and invite licensed professionals to create an online account with Merit. Once professionals create an account, they will always have access to a digital copy of their most recent licenses and certifications using Merit’s website or mobile app. Professionals will also be electronically notified when licenses must be renewed. Digital licenses will be issued in addition to physical licenses, and professionals will still receive mail and physical licenses from the department.

Digital credentials are now available to all 310,000 licensed professionals in over 40 professions serviced by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. These benefits come at no cost to licensees or to the state, and no funds were set aside in the 2018–2020 appropriations bill for this service.

The Home Builders Association of Virginia represents more than 83,000 licensed members and supports the partnership.

“This partnership is the beginnings of an infrastructure that will help ensure that people with the right skills find the right jobs,” said CEO M. Craig Toalson. “This new system will make licensing easier for everyone involved and will allow workers to spend less time navigating a complex paperwork process and more time focusing on the careers that they love.”

This announcement comes less than two years after Virginia Regulatory Reduction Pilot Program (HB 883) was signed into law by Gov. Northam. The program aims to reduce 25% of regulations and regulatory requirements in the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation by July 1, 2021.

Wisconsin Reduces Licensing Fees for Nearly 75% of Licensed Occupations

Occupational licensure is one of the most overarching labor market issues facing low-income workers. The proportion of the labor force required to obtain a license exceeds that of both minimum wage earners and union members.1,2,3 The costs of licensing, such as exams, training courses, continuing education, and application and renewal fees, can present significant barriers to work, particularly for those for whom money is the tightest: Americans who are low-income, unemployed, and/or dislocated workers.  

On July 1, a new occupational licensing fee structure went into effect in Wisconsin that brought down licensing fees for 127 licensed occupations and professions—approximately 75% of all occupations and professions licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). An estimated 361,000 individuals who apply for or renew a Wisconsin license during the next biennium will pay a reduced fee as a result, promoting new economic activity and making it easier for low-income individuals to climb the economic ladder. Initial application fees were reduced by an average of $26.78, and renewal fees saw an average reduction of $57.42. This is approximately a 32.5% reduction in the average total fees associated with obtaining a license in Wisconsin.4

The change stems from Wisconsin Statute § 440.03(9)(a), which requires DSPS to conduct a licensing fee study every two years.5 Moreover, under chapters 440 and 480 of Wisconsin statutes, licensing fees charged to occupations and businesses under the department’s authority must be at cost.6,7 That is, licensing fees must not exceed the approximate administrative and enforcement costs of regulating those occupations and professions. According to DSPS, the new fees are projected to provide sufficient revenue to cover existing operating expenses and afford the department the ability to maintain staffing levels that will ensure customer service remains a top priority. 

Fee changes of this magnitude have not occurred in Wisconsin since the 2009-2011 biennium. This most recent fee study was the first to utilize new data on the costs associated with administering occupational licenses that is more accurate and detailed than what was previously available. As a result, the department was able to make more precise estimates of operating costs and thus usher in the first major overhaul of licensing fees in a decade.  

“Thanks to technology integration and advancements, the department can better manage resources needed to regulate professional licenses and credentials while passing on those savings to our customers,” said DSPS Secretary Dawn B. Crim. “Lowering financial barriers for people who enter these professions for the first time as well as making the renewal process more affordable promotes economic growth and stability while protecting the citizens of Wisconsin who rely on these professional services.”

Wisconsin is one of 16 states chosen to participate in the National Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium, which is a multi-year program coordinated in part by The Council of State Governments that explores ways to reduce unnecessary barriers to labor market entry and streamline licensing processes. The other states selected are Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Vermont.

Sources

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Data on certificates and licensing. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat49.pdf
  2. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Characteristics of minimum wage workers, 2018. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2018/pdf/home.pdf
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Union Members – 2018. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/union2.pdf
  4. Carpenter, D. M., Knepper, L., Sweetland, K., & McDonald, J. (2017). License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing 2nd Edition. Arlington, VA: Institute for Justice. Retrieved from http://ij.org/wp-content/themes/ijorg/images/ltw2/License_to_Work_2nd_Edition.pdf
  5. Wis. Stat. § 440.03. Retrieved from http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/440/I/03/9/a
  6. Wis. Stat. § 440. Retrieved from https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/440
  7. Wis. Stat. § 480. Retrieved from https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/480

Should Licensing Reformers Still Be Talking About African Hair Braiding?

If you’ve studied the issue of occupational licensing reform for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly heard about African hair braiders. The issue of state government regulating the hair braiding industry is a compelling one. Why would a state subject a hair braider to obtain a full cosmetology license, endure hundreds of hours of unnecessary coursework and pay thousands of dollars before they can legally work? Furthermore, the courses required to obtain the required license do not even directly apply to hair braiding but are more focused on general cosmetology issues like handling chemicals and cutting hair.

Major political figures on both sides of the isle have spoken about this argument including former Vice-President Joe Biden who said, “If you are a hair braider, you braid people’s hair, you have to get a license to do something like 400 hours of training in another state.”

The personal anecdotes are even more compelling. This is a trade extends back thousands of years and has been passed down through generations of family traditions. Why then would a state feel it necessary to interject and force braiders to go back to school and get a license that is not even applicable to their trade?

If you have been to a meeting on occupational licensing reform or researched the topic online for more than a few minutes, you will no doubt have seen African hair braiding brought up as a reason we should overhaul state occupational regulation. Reformers point to the personal anecdotes, and the burdensome licensing requirements for cosmetologists being unjustly applied to braiders.

The only problem is states have, for the most part, already addressed this issue. In 2019 only 7 states still require a full cosmetologists license for African hair braiders. In 2014 that number was 24 states. In the past 5 years, 17 states have either removed the licensing requirement for hair braiders or created a specialty license with significantly reduced amount of training required.

Hawaii, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are the only states that continue to require a full cosmetology license for their African hair braiders. 28 states completely exempt hair braiding from licensure: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. The remaining states have a specialty license for hair braiding with significantly reduced number of training hours required.

Hair braiding is continuously used as an example to convince policymakers that state occupational licensing is a broken system that needs fixing. However, policymakers should also be made aware that the majority of states have fixed the issues regarding barriers into this occupation.

Sensationalists claims are often touted which grab attention but studying the issue will lead you to the conclusion that state government largely did its job. Lawmakers realized that requiring a cosmetology license for hair braiders is not good regulation and did something to fix the issue.  Yet the incessant rhetoric from reform groups will have you believing that every state still punishes hair braiders in this way.

Comparing one occupation to another is never apples to apples. Each industry has unique challenges and responsibilities to the public. Hair braiders and dentists are two entirely different professions. Arguments which lump all of state licensing into one single system run the risk of pushing reform where reform is not needed and would be harmful to public safety. Comparing dramatically different professions misses the larger point about what the aim of licenses is and whom they are designed to protect.

Let’s move past the stories hair braiders who were shut down and fined by the state cosmetology board. States learned from their mistakes and fixed the issue. Let’s have more informed, industry-specific conversations about occupational licensing that don’t paint regulation as a broken system because of a few anecdotes.