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Legislative Update from the Professional Certification Coalition (PCC)

By B. Denise Roosendaal, CAE, ICE Executive Director

Editor’s Note: This article shares an update from the Professional Certification Coalition (PCC), as of July 3, 2019. Need a primer on the PCC and its initiatives? Read this introductory article from Executive Director Denise Roosendaal, as well as an update here shared earlier in the year.

 

The Professional Certification Coalition (PCC) was created in 2018 after several state legislative initiatives demonstrated the lack of understanding and potential threat to private certification. As the 2019 State Legislative sessions come to a close, the frenetic pace of tracking more than 80 bills in more than 30 states is drawing to a close, as well. There are a handful of state houses with year-round sessions, which the Professional Certification Coalition (PCC) will continue to monitor.

Overall, this session was a success. Here are the categories of bills we tracked:

1. Occupational Licensing Reform Acts. One aspect of the current political climate is a focus on examining regulatory barriers to job creation. While we do not dispute the need for periodic review of occupational regulation, the PCC believes the review process should balance market competition considerations with public protection (health, safety, and welfare). In addition, this occupational regulation review process should avoid evidentiary presumptions and standards that are essentially too high for licensure regulations to ever meet. Plus, we’re monitoring those licensure bodies that incorporate professional certification as required by the licensing issuer. 

2. Government vs. Private Certification. Many occupational licensure reform bills demonstrate a lack of understanding of what private certification is and how it operates (within or outside of licensure). The result is confusing and imprecise language that includes provisions for the government to establish its own certification programs. But the members of the PCC define certification as an activity conducted by private entities, not governmental ones, even though there are plenty of examples of state licensing bodies relying on or pointing to private certification in their work. 

3. Consumer Choice Acts or Right to Earn a Living Acts. The typical Consumer Choice Act establishes a pathway to bypass licensure requirements with a kind of disclosure to the consumer. But the versions of this approach often do not include proper or acknowledged notification to the public when an individual is practicing without a license. This approach is not right for many high-stakes profession where protection of the public is paramount. The Right to Earn a Living Act, for example, allows for a member of the public or a particular profession to file litigation against government agencies seeking injunctions against licensure regulations and shifting the burden of proof to the government, to show that regulations serve the public interest. This is a potentially high burden on the government and high cost to the taxpayer to prove such litigation. 

4. Criminal Conviction Re-entry Legislation. These bills address the challenges facing ex-offenders when attempting to re-enter the workforce. They typically prohibit the government’s consideration of previous convictions as a means for disqualification for holding a license. These bills are popular and have bi-partisan support. The PCC is monitoring to ensure that the legislation doesn’t inhibit the right of a private certification body from considering such criminal history when issuing a certification or recertification. 

There are still two bills that present concerns:

    • PA HB 811 appears to restrict the use of the title “certified” to certifications issued by the state. As currently drafted, it would also interfere with the ethics enforcement of private certification organizations. Our hope is that the sponsors will be open to amendments to improve the bill. We have convened an informal working group of PCC members with a significant presence in Pennsylvania, along with other allied organizations, to respond to the bill.   
    • MI HB 4488 is a particular problem for PCC members that certify — or count as members — individuals who hold any sort of license, to the extent those organizations rely on licensure boards to take disciplinary actions that the private organizations then use as a basis for ethics code enforcement. H.B. 4488 would, for example, prohibit any licensure action based on civil judgment against an individual — no exceptions. A civil judgment against you for fraud or theft? Your CPA license is protected. H.B. 4488 would also prohibit a licensure action based on any misdemeanor — or any felony that does not trigger the state’s interest in protecting “public safety.” In addition, the bill suggests that licensure boards cannot take action based on any public record “related to” a conviction. 

Two federal bills we are also tracking include:

Klobauchar S.B. 379, 529 Legislation:

    • The PCC supports legislation that would expand current allowable uses for 529 college savings plan to permit beneficiaries to use these tax-advantaged funds to cover expenses associated with obtaining a postsecondary credential. We are in active conversations with members of Congress regarding moving an amendment to a larger “retirement security” bill that will soon be considered on the House floor that embodies our support for this proposal. 

Booker/Cummings H.B. 1893, Next Step Act:

    • The PCC is actively monitoring legislation that aims to achieve the worthy objective of reducing recidivism by expanding opportunities for ex-offenders to earn a living. However, we want to make sure that the licensing and certification-related provisions in this bill do not interfere with the well-established right of private certification organizations to determine what profession-specific certification requirements, both substantive and conduct-related, are necessary to qualify for the organization’s credentials.  

The PCC will to continue its work into another fiscal year as we attempt to squash or reform these legislative attempts to redefine or limit the ability for certification programs to operate effectively. Again, we appreciate your support.

If you are an ICE member, we have a recorded webinar from March of this year, which includes the wise input of one of the PCC attorneys and includes much more detail on these topics. That recording is free to members or the organizations you serve. If you have questions about the PCC feel free to email me (droosendaal@credentialingexcellence.org) or the main email inbox for the coalition, info@profcertcoalition.org.

Learn more about the PCC and ASAE's The Power of A

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Learn more about the PCC, made up of more than 100 organizations, online at profcertcoalition.org

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ASAE's The Power of A is a resource and support system for America's associations and nonprofits. Learn more here

    

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