By Maureen Hayden and Scott Smith
CNHI News Service
Legislation pushed by Gov. Mike Pence to eliminate licensing requirements for more than a dozen occupations is apparently dead, killed by a lack of support from both Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly.
The legislation, Senate Bill 520, would have automatically “sunsetted” licensing requirements for a range of occupations, from real estate agents to cosmetologists.
A watered-down version of Pence’s original proposal passed through the Senate in February. But Senate Bill 520 won’t get a hearing in the House, according to both the bill sponsor and the chairman of the committee to which the bill was assigned.
State Sen. Randy Head, a Logansport Republican who was asked by the Pence administration to carry the bill, said legislators wanted to change the language of the bill to give the General Assembly the authority to determine which, if any, occupational licenses would be eliminated.
“The governor’s people disagreed with making that change,” said Head.
Pence’s office released a brief statement saying the legislation isn’t dead. But the bill is stopped in its tracks. The language in Senate Bill 520 bill would have to be inserted into another bill in the final week of the legislative session, when lawmakers meet in a conference committee to hash out details of final legislation, that would have to be voted on again by both chambers.
It’s unclear if there’s any support for that. Rep. Steve Stemler, a Democrat from Jeffersonville and chairman of the House Select Committee on Government Reduction, said he decided against hearing the bill due to the lack of support from legislators on both sides of the aisle.
Republican state Rep. Mike Karickhoff said the General Assembly rejected similar legislation last year, after people whose occupations would be affected protested against eliminating the licensing requirements. “There’s been some deregulation take place, but I’d say we’ve hit a plateau, because for two years in a row, the Legislature has stalled these efforts,” Karickhoff said.
Pence, who took office in January, put Senate Bill 520 on his legislative priority list this session and campaigned on the idea of eliminating a wide range of occupational licenses, calling them a deterrent to employment.
In his much-touted “Roadmap for Indiana,” Pence called for the creation of a regulatory committee “for the express purpose of reducing the number of occupational licenses.”
Dubbed the ERASER Committee (for “Eliminate, Reduce And Streamline Employee Regulation”), the appointed body was also to be tasked with a “sunrise” review of legislation creating any new occupational licenses.
Pence called the bill part of his effort to eliminate regulatory barriers to employment, but some people covered by the current occupational licensing requirements howled in protest.
Some of the strongest opposition to the bill came from hairdressers and cosmetologists who said licensing actually boosted their odds for employment, since their license is seen as a measure of their training and proficiency. They also see their license as an indicator they’ve been trained in handling chemicals necessary to their job.
“You’re dealing with a safety factor for the public,” said Kokomo hair stylist Kenlyn Watson. “If there’s no rules and regulations as a deterrent to do the right thing,something will happen.”
Watson was among the crowd of hairdressers and barbers who descended on the legislature to lobby against the 2012 version of the bill.
Mary Taylor, an instructor at the Prosser Career Education Center in New Albany, opposed the bill because of concerns that the lack of licensing would negatively affect the job opportunities of her students.
“It’s not just a little group of cosmetologists here in Indiana, it’s all over,” Taylor told the News and Tribune in Jeffersonville. “In order to work for Redken or Paul Mitchell or other cosmetology product sellers, you have to be licensed.”
Under Senate Bill 520, the occupations that faced the automatic elimination of licensing requirements also included dietitians, home inspectors, land surveyors, massage therapists, professional soil scientists, real estate brokers, certified surgical technologists and several others.
Kim Fipps, a Howard County home inspector, said the current licensing threshold isn’t high enough to keep some poor home inspectors out of the business.
“Either get rid of [licensing] or make it tougher,” Fipps said. “Right now it’s a nuisance.”
The bill’s original language, supported by Pence, would have set in motion a process to automatically eliminate licensing requirements for 35 different occupations. The Senate reduced that number to 13 occupations.
In the Pence-supported version of the bill, licensing requirements in certain occupations would have been automatically eliminated unless the legislature voted to continue licensing for that occupation. Head said there were lawmakers who were open to the bill but wanted to do away with the automatic elimination of licensing and change the language so that the General Assembly would have to vote to end the license.
Republican state Rep. Ed Clere of New Albany is one of the legislators who expressed concern about the bill’s potential negative impact. “At a time when we’re trying to find ways to help stabilize employment and promote job creation, we shouldn’t be doing anything that could cause additional uncertainty or disruption in any business.”
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.