Politics & Government

NC may eliminate licensing for a dozen professions

Lawmakers are considering a proposal to eliminate state licensing requirements for a dozen occupations ranging from podiatrists to public librarians.

The bill will be considered Tuesday by a joint legislative committee, which could recommend that it be taken up by the Legislature during its session starting in late April.

Supporters argue that limiting licensing requirements for the professions would lower the barrier for job-seekers, particularly poor ones, and also reduce costs for customers – creating wider benefits for the economy.

A draft of the bill from late March would eliminate license requirements – as well as state boards that grant the licenses – for fee-based pastoral counselors; interpreters and translators; electrolysis and laser hair practitioners; irrigation contractors; recreational therapists and recreational therapy assistants; acupuncturists; athletic trainers; foresters; locksmiths and locksmith apprentices; podiatrists; alarm system businesses; employee assistance professionals; clinical profusionists; and public librarians.

Other boards would be consolidated. For example, licensing of midwives would be moved to state’s nursing board instead of a separate panel.

Sen. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, said that too much licensing hurts the economy and argued that consumers already do a good job of weeding out bad professionals through online reviews and other means.

“I’m not sure a piece of paper from the state is that meaningful,” he said. “Especially when … we’re in the age of online reviews. I’d rather know what 5,000 of my peers know about your service.”

Asked specifically about eliminating the licensing requirement for podiatry, a medical specialty, he said: “The question is whether they should have their own board. We don’t have a separate board for every medical specialty there is.”

A nonprofit organization representing the state’s athletic trainers argued that the state licensing board for their profession should remain intact, saying it’s needed to protect public health.

The North Carolina Athletic Trainers’ Association said in a memo to lawmakers that trainers work closely with physicians, citing a state law that specifically names the profession as one that can implement procedures to return athletes to play after concussions.

Christopher Koopman, a researcher at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said in a letter to legislators that there are thousands of online reviews in the Raleigh area alone of professions that fall under the boards that could be affected by the bill.

He wrote: “choosing not to impose licensing on a particular profession does not mean that consumers are left without means to learn about local businesses and professionals that they may choose to use.”

The left-leaning North Carolina Justice Center said a review of licensing rules is a good idea, but it doesn’t support the current legislation because more study is needed.

“We are concerned that the proposed bill goes too far and the sunsetting of the many professional licenses laws now on the books have not been carefully thought out,” the center’s director of advocacy, Bill Rowe, said in an email to Wells on Thursday.