Report Discusses Potential Shakeup of Professional License Boards
Report Discusses Potential Shakeup of Professional License Boards
In an effort to gain efficiency, one state may be shaking up the way professionals are licensed or certified to serve the public. Recently, the non-partisan Program Evaluation Division (“PED”) of the NC Legislative Services Commission released its Final Report on independent occupational licensing agencies (“OLA”), which oversee a broad spectrum of professions and occupations such as doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, veterinarians, as well as architects, engineers, surveyors, general contractors, real estate agents, and funeral service providers. The Report did not recommend a complete consolidation of licensing boards, but did find that current reporting requirements by independent OLAs do not provide adequate oversight by the State of North Carolina. Among other recommendations discussed below, the PED suggested that a new Occupational Licensing Commission could improve efficiencies while maintaining the independence of professional license boards.
“Many of the services that North Carolinians use on a daily basis are regulated by the State”, says Robert Crawford, an attorney specializing in professional and occupational licensing law. “From medical professionals, accountants, and realtors all the way to barbers, cosmetologists, and plumbers, how these changes may be implemented could affect professionals and citizens in both significant and subtle ways,” he said.
The PED review process started in July 2013, when the North Carolina legislature requested the PED conduct a study of the structure, organization, and operation of the various independent occupational licensing agencies as defined by statute.1 Using the statutory definition, this includes any board, committee, commission or other agency in North Carolina established for the primary purpose of regulating the entry of persons into, and/or the conduct of persons within, a particular profession or occupation, and which is authorized to issue licenses.2 This definition does not include State agencies, staffed by full-time State employees, which as part of their regular function may issue licenses. Thus, excluded from the study are such agencies as the Department of Insurance,3 Department of Justice,4 Department of Public Safety,5 and Department of Health and Human Services.6
On December 17, 2014, the Program Evaluation Division Final Report was issued (Report Number 2014-15). The report identified 55 OLAs that met the statutory definition. Although these OLAs are state agencies, they receive no state general revenue and are not subject to legislatively mandated spending restrictions. In fiscal 2013-2014, these 55 OLAs expended $67.2 million to regulate 703,870 licensees. The regulation of these professions and occupations is intended to (i) protect the public from unscrupulous, incompetent and unethical practitioners, (ii) offer some assurance to the public that the regulated individual is competent, and (iii) provide a means for discipline for those who fail to comply. Regulation may be through licensure, certification, or registration depending upon the perceived threat to the public health, safety and welfare.
The PED found that transferring regulatory authority or administrative responsibilities from OLAs to a single state agency may not result in improved performance and would likely entail high implementation costs to realize potential gains in efficiency. However, the current OLA reporting requirements do not provide adequate state-level oversight. (The Office of the State Auditor also recently concluded that there is inadequate oversight of OLAs.) Nor is there adequate oversight to ensure that OLA enforcement processes are effectively contributing to the protection of the public’s health, safety and welfare. The PED found and recommended that an Occupational Licensing Commission could help OLAs realize the advantages of centralized regulation without sacrificing the benefits associated with the existence of independent licensing agencies. The PED recommended that the law be amended to better define the criteria that agencies must meet in order to be listed. Twelve OLAs were found to require further review by the legislature to determine continued need for licensure authority. Consideration may be given to moving to a certification model rather than a licensure model. In its last finding, the PED recommended consolidation of 10 OLAs with another regulatory entity to help ensure that necessary resources are available to effectively regulate licensed occupations.
Attorney Robert Crawford of the Raleigh, North Carolina law firm of Crawford & Crawford, PLLC has successfully represented clients before more than 30 occupational licensing agencies and State departments to obtain or keep their license. As confirmed in the Final Report of the PED, occupational licensing agencies lack adequate oversight. The complaint resolution process varies from one agency to another. Any licensee faced with investigation of a complaint that can lead to suspension or revocation of their license should seek experienced legal counsel. An early mutual agreeable resolution may be possible. If not, administrative litigation to keep your license will certainly require a lawyer familiar with this unique area of law.
Robert Crawford can be reached at 919-519-8140. A full copy of Report can be found by clicking this link: Program Evaluation Division Final Report
1N.C. Session Laws 2013-413, Section 10(a).
2N.C. Gen. Stat. § 93B-1.
3The Department of Insurance issues licenses to and regulates insurance agents, adjusters, and companies, bail bondsman, manufactured housing dealers and salespeople, home inspectors, and code officials.
4The Department of Justice, through the Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and the Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission, certifies law enforcement officers, correctional and probation/parole officers, juvenile justice officers, campus and company police officers, and sheriffs’ deputies and detention officers.
5The Department of Public Safety issues licenses to persons, firms, and associations engaged in private protective services (Private Protective Services Board) and alarm systems (Alarm System Licensing Board)
6The Department of Health and Human Services licenses child and adult care facilities and regulated unlicensed health care personnel such as nurse and medication aides.