Regulations

Occupational licensing reform shouldn’t be a partisan issue

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This piece was first published in the Sun Journal.

“We will develop a world-class workforce. Fewer than half of Maine adults now hold a postsecondary credential – either a college degree or a professional certification. Yet two out of three jobs require such credentials. This imbalance is why we have — at the same time — employers saying they can’t find workers, and workers saying that they are stuck in dead-end jobs…Attracting talented young people to move here and make Maine their home will be a top priority of my Administration.” -Governor Mills’ Inaugural Address

Maine is the oldest state in the nation with a median age of 44. Maine’s working population will decrease six percent by 2026. According to the state economist, “for Maine to continue to see economic growth and population growth — in-migration must accelerate.” Maine has a workforce shortage and the clock is ticking before we feel the economic impact of that.

On Friday, December 6, Maine’s Legislative Council, controlled by Democrats 6-4, had a chance to work together with the minority party to green light a bill for the second session that would have recognized occupational licenses from other states for workers in good standing. LR 2864, “An Act to Recognize Occupational Licenses from Other States to Attract New Residents and Businesses to Maine” could have been a first step towards developing the world-class workforce that Governor Mills spoke about to make Maine competitive in the 21st century.

Under universal recognition, a skilled professional in good standing can apply for a license in their field and be approved quickly, encouraging a seamless transition into the Maine workforce. This is good for workers, their families, employers and the state. I disagree with the governor on a whole host of issues, but I still want to see her succeed. Because if she succeeds, Maine succeeds. LR 2864 could have been a great way for the two parties to work together and start the second session in a bipartisan manner, doing work that will actually benefit current and future Mainers.

Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon decided to use the voting record of state representatives as the deciding factor for whether or not their bills got through the Legislative Council. Had I not led the fight in the House to defeat the national popular vote, my bills would have stood a much better chance of getting through the Legislative Council.

This is no way to govern. It’s a punitive and toxic way to evaluate the constitutional requirements for second session bills. This is the epitome of swamp politics and it needs to stop.

LR 2864 was not even partisan.  Early on, it had the support of a well-respected Democrat senator. In fact, occupational licensing reform was already on the radar of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation in the first session of the 129th Legislature, and that’s a great thing. Last session, several department bills were introduced and enacted, with one being carried over:

  • LD 1768 “An Act To Amend the Barbering and Cosmetology Licensing Laws”
  • LD 1716 “An Act To Update the Licensing Laws for Occupational Therapy Practice”
  • LD 1746 “An Act To Amend the Licensing Laws of Certain Professions and Occupations”
  • LD 1841 “Resolve, Directing the Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation to Create a Working Group To Study Barriers to Credentialing” (Carried Over)

Our governor has called for a “world-class workforce” and she’s absolutely right — that’s what we need. Red tape can keep good people from moving to and working in Maine. LR 2864, “An Act to Recognize Occupational Licenses from Other States to Attract New Residents and Businesses to Maine” eliminates the often expensive, time-consuming and redundant regulatory hoops that come with having to be licensed twice for a job you’ve already been doing safely and productively in another state. It puts people back to work faster and makes Maine a more competitive and attractive place to move. It’s a common sense and pro-growth economic policy.

Unfortunately, my bill was drowned by Democrats on the Legislative Council.

I fear this is going to be an extremely partisan and expensive session come January 2020.

About John Andrews

Representative John Andrews represents House District 73, which includes the towns of Paris, Buckfield and Hebron.

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