By Jeffrey May, J.D.
A year and a half after then-FTC Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen convened the Economic Liberty Task Force to address unnecessary occupational licensing requirements, a staff report has now been released, calling on stakeholders in the occupational licensing process to evaluate options for improving license portability with an eye toward likely competitive effects. Ohlhausen has identified her work on the task force as one of her key accomplishments during her tenure at the agency. As her term draws to a close with her last day September 25, the FTC today released a policy paper, entitled "Options to Enhance Occupational License Portability."
In the paper, the staff "encourages the use of options that will enhance portability while imposing the fewest restrictions on competition and labor supply, because such restrictions can lead to higher prices, lower quality, and reduced access for consumers, as well as fewer job options for service providers."
The paper notes that for some professions, occupational licensing is necessary to protect the public against legitimate health and safety concerns. However, the staff also points to the burdensome nature of state-based licensing requirements, particularly for licensees who provide services in more than one state, and thus need multistate licensing.
In an effort to overcome these burdens, the FTC staff stresses the importance of license portability initiatives to increase competition, choice, and access to services, especially where providers are in short supply. The report suggests that stakeholders evaluating options to improve license portability consider the following points:
- Both model laws and interstate compacts have been used to improve licensure portability for individual occupations;
- For reducing barriers to multistate practice, consider the use of a mutual recognition model, in which licensees need only one state license to practice in other member states and are not required to give notice of their intent to practice in another state;
- Alternatively, consider easing multistate practice by expediting licensure in each intended state of practice;
- Take steps to ease licensure upon relocation to a new state, whether by expediting the process or by allowing licensees to practice in the new state of residence under an existing multistate license during processing of the application;
- Harmonize state licensure standards, using the least restrictive standard that can gain the support of states nationwide;
- State-based efforts to reduce barriers to licensing of relocated military spouses often address multiple occupations that require licensing; and
- At the state level, consider expanding the use of temporary licensing and other procedures that have helped reduce the burden of licensing for relocated military spouses to all applicants licensed by another state.
According to the report, recent efforts at successful portability, particularly with respect to streamlining licensing for military spouses, suggest further liberalization and reform is both possible and beneficial.
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