Mississippi legislators in April joined in a growing national trend to “regulate the regulators” in charge of professional licensing by establishing a powerful panel, to be led by the governor, that will vet any regulation proposed by a licensing board.
The purpose of the measure, House Bill 1425, signed by the governor April 11, is “to ensure that occupational licensing boards and board members avoid liability under federal antitrust law.”
In line with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling (North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC), that boards dominated by “active market participants” should be supervised, the new law sets up a panel to include the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state, or their respective designees, called the Occupational Licensing Review Commission. The panel will meet quarterly; the governor’s office will provide research and clerical assistance.
Providing active supervision of any state occupational licensing boards controlled by “active market participants” is the purpose of the commission. (However, that supervision does not extend to individual disciplinary actions imposed by the boards.) All proposed regulations must be submitted to the commission before being filed with the secretary of state.
Also in the law is relatively novel language narrowing the definition of the “harm” against which occupational licensing is designed to protect consumers. The law now refers to “present, significant and substantiated harms that threaten public health and safety.”
One loophole was included: the act does not apply to licensing boards that are not controlled by active market participants. Theoretically, this could mean that boards with a majority of public members could avoid the review provisions.