Labor

Lawmakers decline eliminating a licensing board that did not meet for four consecutive years

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Occupational licensing exists to protect public health and safety in professions that pose measurable risk to consumers. However, as we’ve highlighted before, licensing has gone overboard in Maine. The state enforces rules that simply do not make sense and licenses dozens of occupations where there is no serious threat to the public.

In these instances, licensing exists as a form of protectionism, allowing licensed professionals to charge more for their services while making it significantly more difficult for individuals to enter the profession. But instead of eliminating onerous rules to empower Maine workers, lawmakers in Augusta continue to defend occupational licenses that serve no purpose but to appease special interests.

The Maine House and Senate on Thursday accepted the majority ought not to pass report from the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee on LD 884, a bill that would have eliminated the Board of Licensing of Dietetic Practice. The decision allows one of Maine’s most useless occupational licensing boards to continue regulating dietitians and dietetic technicians, much to the detriment of all Maine consumers who utilize these services.

Just how important is this licensing board to public health and safety in Maine? When the Board of Licensing of Dietetic Practice met in September 2018, it accepted minutes from a meeting in June 2014, showing they had not met for more than four consecutive years. It’s also worth noting that dietitians are such a threat to public health and safety that the laws governing the profession exempt state and federal employees who administer food and nutrition programs.

The stated purpose of the Board of Licensing of Dietetic Practice is “to recognize the professional qualifications of dietitians and dietetic technicians and to assure the availability to the public of information regarding those who hold themselves out to be dietitians and dietetic technicians.”

The Board of Licensing of Dietetic Practice is the definition of an occupational licensing board that has outlived its usefulness (it was created in 1985) and no longer serves a legitimate purpose.

With the advent of the internet and easy access to websites created for the purpose of reviewing or rating services and practitioners, the Board no longer needs to recognize the professional qualifications of dietitians and dietetic technicians. The free market is well-equipped to perform the function of the Board through testimonials and online reviews. Simply put, if you do not like your dietitian, you do not have to keep your dietitian.

This is also not the first time lawmakers have had an opportunity to repeal this licensing board. A 2013 report from the Maine Office of Policy and Management (OPM) recommended that the Board of Licensing of Dietetic Practice be discontinued to allow staff in the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation to focus on other boards that concern the health and safety of the public.

OPM’s recommendation stated that discontinuation of the board “would not jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of Maine citizens.” When the report was published in 2013, no consumer-initiated complaints had been filed with the board.

According to testimony provided by Anne Head, the Commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, only two complaints have been filed since 2015; one was thrown out for insufficient evidence and another was for a licensee failing to comply with the Board’s continuing education requirements. Marianne Stevens, a public member of the board, said meetings had been cancelled for three years because they lacked a quorum.

In her testimony, Commissioner Head also said, “The Board meets infrequently due to a lack of agenda items that require board action and because it has been difficult for the board to attain a quorum for board meetings.” This begs the obvious question: If the Board hadn’t met in four consecutive years, and there had only been two complaints related to the profession, how would the elimination of this board jeopardize public health and safety?

Unsurprisingly, the only people who testified in opposition to LD 884 were members of the board licensed dietitians.

The only states that license dietetic technicians are Maine and New Mexico. Not only is the licensing of dietetic technicians uncommon, but the fees collected from each licensee to administer the program ($171) discourage individuals from entering the profession. According to the Institute for Justice, dietetic technicians have the 15th most burdensome licensing requirements of the 102 low- to moderate-income occupations featured in their License to Work study. But the requirements are only burdensome in the states that license these individuals, of which Maine is one.

Lawmakers had every reason to eliminate this unnecessary board and the licenses it regulates, but instead allowed special interests to reign supreme.

May you survive your next encounter with a dangerous dietitian.

About Adam Crepeau

Adam Crepeau serves as a policy analyst at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at acrepeau@mainepolicy.org.

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