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What's New: Advocacy

Occupational Licensing Bill Introduced in U.S. House

Thursday, August 9, 2018  

Occupational Licensing Bill Introduced in U.S. House

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) introduced H.R. 6515 to limit private antitrust suits for damages against state occupational licensing boards. One of the current issues in occupational licensing is that some state licensing boards are composed of active participants in the market that may have a financial motive to protect their competitive advantage from new entrants. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a case that the Federal Trade Commission brought against the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners that self-interested state licensing boards were subject to liability under the antitrust laws.

H.R. 6515 is an attempt in Congress to grant immunity to state occupational boards if their conduct is regulated by the state, but H.R. 6515 also could influence occupational licensing reform in the states. Only the state or an instrumentality of the state may bring an antitrust suit against an occupational licensing board under the following conditions:

--The state has enacted an occupational license and set forth the personal qualifications, standards of practice, and ethical standards for the regulated occupation.
--The state has found that the public needs can be reasonably expected to benefit from licensing, and the unlicensed conduct of the occupation could harm or endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the public.
--The occupation license is a widely regulated occupation, which means 40 or more states require such a license. The antitrust immunity would also apply to not-widely regulated occupations if the state has implemented a periodic sunset review of the licensing board for that occupation. If a new license requirement, there must be a sunrise review of the licensing board. In ongoing studies of occupational licensing, it is commonly noted that there are over 1,000 occupational licenses among the states, but only 60 licenses that all states require.

If these above conditions are not met, private antitrust suits would be permissible.

H.R. 6515 would require the Comptroller General of the United States to issue a report to Congress on how states can best address occupational licensing reform, particularly for occupational licensing requirements not directly related to protecting the health, safety, or welfare of the public. The report would have to provide recommendations on how states can weigh the costs and benefits of occupational licensing against those of less restrictive alternatives, such as certification and other approaches. Bonding is not specified as an approach to occupational regulations. The report would have to provide guidance on conducting cost-benefit assessments of occupational regulations and occupational licensing boards through sunrise and sunset reviews. The report also would have to include information for states to implement policies supporting occupational licensing uniformity and occupational license portability, particularly for veterans and military service members and spouses. The report also would have to address the effect of these requirements on low-income workers, the unemployed, immigrants with work authorizations, and individuals with criminal records.

Members should visit Advocacy / What's New for more information.

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