Labor

Last-minute licensing reform bill will expand opportunity in Maine

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Just before the conclusion of Maine’s most recent legislative session, lawmakers passed an occupational licensing reform bill that will make it easier for workers in some professions to obtain a license to work. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Erin Herbig, was signed into law by Governor Janet Mills on Friday, June 28 and expands economic freedom by easing some of the occupational licensing requirements for electricians, property appraisers and speech-language pathology assistants.

Under previous law, there were only two ways that one could get licensed as a master electrician, dependent on the license status of the individual applying. Helper electricians and apprentice electricians have to complete at least 12,000 hours of work under the direct supervision of a master, journeyman or limited electrician. Journeyman and journeyman-in-training electricians who have completed a 576-hour accredited education program must complete at least 4,000 hours of work under the indirect supervision of a master or limited electrician.

LD 1746 creates a new avenue to obtaining licensure as a master electrician. Under the new law, an individual can become a master electrician if they have worked for at least 6,000 hours in the field of electrical installations as a journeyman-in-training electrician and completed an accredited education program.

Unfortunately, lawmakers came up short of expanding opportunity for helper electricians. The first iteration of LD 1746 allowed journeyman electricians to supervise up to two helper electricians at one time. Current law permits journeyman electricians to supervise just one helper electrician. Helper electricians are entry-level electrical workers and must be at least 16 years old unless they are enrolled in an electrical program at an accredited institution. They may only work under the supervision of skilled electricians. However, LD 1746 was amended during the legislative process and this provision was removed from the bill.

As it relates to property appraisers, LD 1746 removes previous requirements to become a residential or general property appraiser and replaces them with language that mirrors less stringent federal requirements. Previously, the law required property appraisers to have an associates degree and complete additional training.

LD 1746 also corrects an oversight in existing law related to licensure as a speech-language pathologist assistant. The law now allows individuals with an associate degree “or higher” in communication disorders to become licensed as a speech-language pathologist assistant.

Unsurprisingly, the primary opponents of LD 1746 were interests associated with workers who practice in these fields and stand to lose from the state easing licensing requirements and expanding opportunity for other workers. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1253 testified in opposition to the bill along with the Maine AFL-CIO.

While limited in scope to just a few professions, LD 1746 is a step in the right direction. Maine lawmakers should continue to explore ways they can reduce barriers to opportunity by eliminating onerous and unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. Burdensome red tape that prevents Mainers from working serves no legitimate purpose in our economy, and its elimination will allow more Mainers to obtain meaningful employment.

About William Rolfe

William Rolfe is a United States Air Force veteran and an intern at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. After being honorably discharged from the United States Air Force, he attended Central Maine Community College where he graduated with an associates degree in general studies. He currently attends the University of New Hampshire where he majors in social work, and hopes to one day attend law school so that he can advocate for fellow veterans.

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