One of Gov. Doug Ducey’s top priorities from his State of the State address took its first step toward completion as a House committee signed off on his plan to eliminate licensing requirements for a handful of professions, but there is still much work to be done before the proposal is in its final form.
HB2613, which the House Commerce Committee approved on Wednesday on a party-line vote, would nix professional licensing requirements for landscape architects, geologists, assayers, driving school instructors, fruit packers and yoga instructors. Rene Guillen, a policy advisor to the governor, said the bill would be a step forward on Ducey’s goal cutting down on the number of professions that require licensing by the state.
“Simply stated, licensing should be the last option, not the first. We should be willing to periodically review the status quo and see if current regulations reach the proper balance of employment opportunity and government oversight. Reducing regulations means more money for hardworking Arizonans,” Guillen told the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday.
Guillen emphasized that the bill, which was amended several times in committee, is not in its final form. He said several changes will be made, including to potentially address issues that came up during the hearing.
“This language is set in clay, not in stone. We are very open to changes,” Guillen said. “This is an actively evolving proposal. This is far from a final product.”
For the most part, members of the industries that would be freed from their licensing requirements disagreed with Guillen’s rationale. Or at least the dozens who attended Wednesday’s committee hearing disagreed.
Deregulation advocates often portray licensing as a way for members of an industry to eliminate competition, while regulated industries tout licenses as necessary for maintaining professional quality and protecting public safety. The geologists, landscape architects, assayers and others who spoke out at Wednesday’s hearing took the latter route.
One concern raised by landscape architects and geologists is license reciprocity. Robert Shuler, of the Arizona chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, noted that his Arizona license allows him to work in neighboring states like Colorado and New Mexico, while professionals in those states can work in Arizona.
But if Arizona scraps its licensing requirements for landscape architects, Shuler said, he won’t be able to work in other states with reciprocity agreements, while Arizona will still be open to out-of-state professionals.
“You’re limiting my ability to go somewhere else and compete,” Shuler said. “I believe in competition, but it needs to be fair and equal.”
Guillen said the Governor’s Office is willing to work with geologists and landscape architects to address the reciprocity issue as the bill works its way through the legislative process.
“That is part of the list of concerns in terms of putting Arizona’s professionals at a potential disadvantage,” he said. “That is a concern for us as well.”
Some opponents of the bill said licensure is a matter of public safety.
Tiana Rasmussen, who chairs the Arizona section of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, was one of several people who testified that licensing protects public safety.
“Failure to conduct competent geologic investigations can result in a great cost to the state, the taxpayers, citizens, as well as the government, through both loss of property and even the loss of life,” Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen said licensing also ensures that rules against bad actors can be enforced by reporting incompetent geologists to the Board of Technical Registration.
“How would you enforce it? You couldn’t just go to that individual and say, ‘Look, I don’t think you’re very good at what you do and you shouldn’t do it anymore.’ That wouldn’t work. You need a regulatory body in order to govern that,” she said.
Republican lawmakers questioned how necessary some of the licenses really are. Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who sponsored HB2613 on Ducey’s behalf, noted that many states don’t even require licenses for some of the professions addressed in the bill.
And Petersen emphasized that Arizona wouldn’t be eliminating all regulations and government oversight of some of the professions. The bill requires either a certificate from a national bureau of registration or a degree from an accredited institution before someone can call themselves a professional landscape architect. Under an amendment to the bill, a professional geologist would still be required to have a degree and four years of work experience, and to pass an examination offered by national organizations.
“This is not like it’s going from level 10 regulation to level zero regulation. We’re dialing it down. There’s laws on the books,” Petersen said. “It’s not like there’s no recourse whatsoever. Plus you have your free-market recourses, which are bad people go out of business, bad people get sued, bad people have liability.”
Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, said it’s up to the person who’s doing the hiring to determine whether they feel a professional is “capable or a moron.”
“Isn’t this a great example of caveat emptor? Let the buyer beware,” he said.
Lawrence also sought to rebut those who testified that licensure is a sign of professional quality. He insisted that there must be some incompetent people who have been licensed, and suggested that people who hire professionals such as landscape architects decide who to hire based on more than just the fact that they have licenses.
“You have years of experience as a landscape architect. When you go to a job, do you present that job with your background your skills, your gifts … or do you just say I’m licensed, hire me,” Lawrence said.
In some cases, lawmakers questioned whether licensure was really needed. When Shelly Tunis of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association noted that licensing for fruit and vegetable packers helps the federal government track the source of food-borne disease outbreaks, Lawrence took note of the fact that the workers who actually handle the foods aren’t licensed, only the companies.
Lawrence also suggested that licensure was unnecessary in the cremation business.
“If that cremationist didn’t have a license, he could still do the process, take the remains and push them into the fire without a license. If they didn’t have licensing, it could still be done,” Lawrence said.
Ron Adair, of Tucson’s Adair Funeral Homes, replied, “If he was trained, yes.”
The one group that came out in support of eliminating licensure requirements were yoga instructors. Tom Galvin, who represents the Yoga Alliance, said yoga studios are subject to licensure only because of one advanced class they offer, which is called “yoga teacher training,” though he emphasized that the classes aren’t vocational.
Patty Callahan, who owns two Valley yoga studios, said her initial licensing process cost her about $10,000, and that she pays $2,500 to $3,000 per year because she offers one yoga teacher training course per year.
“The reality is by the time I get done paying for all the fees and work effort that’s associated with the licensing, by the time I pay the instructors and comp my students who are going through my training … at best I break even,” Callahan said. “I’m slowly digging my hole deeper and deeper as a small businessperson.”
Lawrence was pleased that at least one industry group affected by HB2613 was supporting the bill.
“Thank you. I thought everybody opposed the bill,” Lawrence said to the yoga studio owners.