State legislatures across the country are in full swing and many are turning their attention to how they regulate professional licensure. The licensure reform movement has been active for several years, with its first significant success in 2019 when Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed into law the nation’s first universal recognition bill for licensed occupations. Since that time other threats to licensure have emerged in the form of different policy proposals including:
- Proposals to eliminate specific licenses – ranging from barbers to landscape architects and engineers.
- Proposals to eliminate or cut funding for licensing boards.
- Both legislation and executive orders that attempt to implement “least restrictive” licensing requirements.
ASCE endorses, supports and promotes the professional licensure of engineers with appropriate standards for education, experience, examination, continuing professional development, and professional conduct to protect and enhance the health, safety and welfare of the public. Additionally, ASCE believes it is the duty of government to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. The purpose of statutes regulating professional licensing of engineers is to fulfill this duty by qualifying individuals who have met appropriate education, experience, and competency standards for licensure and who follow ethical practices. For this reason, ASCE is committed to effective licensure and is working to combat bills that would weaken licensure and put public safety at risk.
Unfortunately, in the past several weeks, ASCE has been tracking legislation in several states that would threaten professional licensure. This includes several bills in Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi, Minnesota, Florida, Missouri, Idaho, New Hampshire, Kansas and Wyoming. Particularly troubling are efforts in Arizona and West Virginia.
In Arizona, S.B. 1304 would effectively eliminate the role of government in professional engineering licensure. In short, the bill, as currently written, would eliminate the role of the Arizona State Board of Technical Registration with regard to Registered Professional Civil Engineers and move those responsibilities to “a corporate organization”. Meanwhile, S.B. 1062, would redefine an engineer as any person who “by reason of engineering education, training, and experience may apply engineering principles and interpret engineering data.” The bill also deems a person an engineer if they represent themselves to the public as a professional engineer by a verbal claim. By effectively allowing unlicensed people to practice at the same level as registered professional engineers, S.B. 1062 puts public safety at risk. The bill was recently approved by the Senate and may soon be considered by the House.
In West Virginia, H.B. 2007 would allow for the universal licensing of professional engineers, allowing engineers to work in West Virginia without approval from the state board and ignoring the fact that professionals can already practice easily across state lines. Under this bill, West Virginia’s occupational licensing boards would be required to issue licenses to individuals with valid licenses from other states who have had those licenses for more than one year and the person’s licenses are in good standing in the state they are coming from. The person seeking the West Virginia license would still need to apply to the respective state licensing board and pay a fee. The bill is currently under consideration in the House.
In good news, a similar bill in Mississippi that would have required the state to recognize licenses obtained in another state, failed earlier this month. That bill would have required licensing boards to issue a license for professions without new testing or training if a person held a license in good standing from another state for at least a year.
To help combat these threats, in 2019 ASCE became a founding member of the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL). ARPL members include the professional societies like ASCE, as well as the national licensing boards for engineers and surveyors, architects, landscape architects, and CPAs.
Through ARPL, ASCE is promoting a responsible, balanced approach to professional licensing, advocating for practices within professions that deliver uniform qualifications, standards, safety, and consistency, while also providing individuals with a clear career path and fair opportunities to pursue and maintain that career. ASCE will continue to work with our national partners to promote balance licensure legislation across the country that not only protects public safety but promotes economic equity in these highly technical professions.