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Occupational Licensing Reform Needs a Guard Against Mishap

Oct 7, 2019, 05:11 AM by Matthew McCann
State lawmakers across the country are removing barriers to a person’s right to work in numerous occupations and professions. Some have taken the path of outright elimination of state licensing. The PICPA is taking an active role in protecting the CPA designation so the profession will not be caught flatfooted should similar legislation be brought up for a vote in Pennsylvania.

By Peter N. Calcara, vice president – government relations

State lawmakers across the country are scrambling to remove barriers to a person’s right to work in numerous occupations and professions. And rightfully so. For many years, state legislatures have expanded control over more and more occupations and professions: some say the reason is to protect the public, others think it is to raise state revenues. In the early 1990s, 800 occupations required licenses in at least one state. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, that number increased to about 1,100 by 2016. Arizona, Delaware, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Rhode Island have all undertaken efforts to deregulate licensing requirements in their state. Some have taken the path of outright elimination, while others have opted to create a new process.

Pennsylvania General AssenblyPennsylvania is not immune to this deregulation trend. In October 2017, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order directing his Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA), which oversees professional licensure, to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s processes, fees, training requirements, criminal history policies, reciprocity or interstate agreements, and continuing education requirements for occupational and professional licensure.

A final report was issued June 11, 2018. According to the report, Pennsylvania ranks 24th in the country in terms of percentage of total workforce licensed or certified. The percentage of workforce professionally licensed in Pennsylvania is slightly lower than 20.2%. The report provides recommendations for the best ways to remove unnecessary restrictions that prevent Pennsylvanians from gaining employment without compromising the health and safety of residents.

In addition, the Pennsylvania legislature recently enacted Act 41 of 2019. This law, which took effect Aug. 30, 2019, establishes an endorsement process for all the boards and commissions under the BPOA for the issuing of licenses to applicants who are licensed to practice in another state. The goal is to make licensure more accessible to those arriving in Pennsylvania who already have the skills and training to do their jobs effectively.

You may be wondering what this has to do with CPAs. While the focus of this deregulation effort is not focused on professional licensees like CPAs, engineers, doctors, and lawyers, collateral damage is always a risk in the legislative process. Depending on language used when drafting a bill, how definitions are crafted, and a host of other potential shenanigans, CPAs may or may not be included in a bill. The PICPA is taking an active role in protecting the CPA designation so the profession will not be caught flatfooted when legislation is brought up for a vote in the state House or Senate.

The PICPA hosted a panel discussion at our recent annual Leadership Conference on this national trend. Take a few moments and view that session. The panel discussed this threat and what is being done to protect your hard-earned credential. This session provides a good primer on the issue and how, if left uncheck, it can easily take on a life of its own.

Additionally, the PICPA has joined with the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) in supporting the newly created Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing (ARPL). The ARPL is a coalition focused on educating policymakers and the public about the importance of rigorous professional licensing standards.

ARPL members include the American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB), the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).

As always, the PICPA has boots on the ground in the state capital. The PICPA government relations team educates our state lawmakers, the Wolf administration, and other stakeholders on the importance and need to maintain high standards for complex, technical occupations like the CPA profession, which rightly requires rigorous and ongoing education, examination, and experience.

We need your help. Learn more about the importance of professional licensing by visiting ARPL’s website, and stay current on legislation in Harrisburg via Legislative Update, PICPA’s government relations e-newsletter. Finally, communicate your concerns to your state representative and senator. State lawmakers want to hear from you, their constituents, on issues that have an impact.

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