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Architects, CPAs, engineers, surveyors push back against licensing deregulation campaigns

Thanks to a key Supreme Court antitrust ruling in 2017, generous foundation funding for occupational licensing research with a libertarian bent, state government bids to deregulate, and pressure from the federal government, especially the military, it has become conventional wisdom over the last two decades that occupational licensing is anti-competitive, a needless hurdle for jobseekers, and a depressor of the economy that must be reformed.

But the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing, recently formed by groups representing certified public accountants (CPAs), engineers, architects, landscape architects, and surveyors, disagrees with that narrative when it comes to regulation of highly technical professions.

In brief, the Alliance believes that professions have responsible licensing models that are working and already address many of the outcomes deregulation bills seek, says Skip Braziel, president, state regulation and legislation, with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, one of the Alliance members. He spoke in defense of professional licensing during a February podcast hosted by CLEAR, the Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (available at https://podcast.clearhq.org/e/arpl/).

The Alliance members have in common the “four Es,” he says: educational requirements that are very rigorous, examinations, experience, and ethics training. “The boards that regulate the professions we represent perform a duty to protect the public,” largely because “the jobs those professionals provide to the public are such high risk that they require rigorous training and oversight.”

He expresses concern about some occupational licensing reform bills’ potential effects. “One particular model piece of legislation that we’ve seen in a couple of different states would allow anyone to perform any service regardless of whether or not the service requires the license as long as the consumer receiving those services gives their consent. We think this is just a step way too far.”

In addition, the Alliance maintains on its website, although current deregulation agendas are allegedly geared to increasing professionals’ mobility, in fact they will affect mobility in a bad way. “Weakening licensing standards on a state-by-state basis will destroy the confidence in qualifications and completely disrupt existing mobility models. States will be less inclined to accept out-of-state licenses if some states have rigorous requirements and some states have weak requirements.”

“We’re not suggesting that reform is in and of itself a bad idea or not necessary,” Braziel says. “We’re simply asking people to be thoughtful as they decide whether or not to get rid of or to amend a particular statute or regulation. You need more than just a Yelp review, quite frankly, to make sure that a bridge is built or designed properly.”

Measures to weaken professional licensing standards have five negative effects, contends the Alliance for Responsible Professional Licensing:

  • They put the public at risk.
  • They leave the public on its own and ill equipped to determine qualifications.
  • They ignore the critical role that licensing plays in enforcement, compliance, continued education, and remedies.
  • They replace assurance of quality at the front end with case-by-case, costly litigation after the fact.
  • They threaten career mobility and destroy good licensing models that are working.