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Governor reduces need for occupational licenses

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Professionals in certain occupations could practice without a state license if they have consumer consent, under an executive order signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday.

The order, which does not apply to medical-related professions, aims to “make it easier for New Mexicans to become licensed and find jobs,” the governor said in a news release.

The order also would streamline the process for professionals to transfer out-of-state licenses when they move to New Mexico, which would help military families, the governor said.

The order would “make it easier for people to enter the workforce or find new jobs by reducing artificial barriers to enter the workforce, such as testing, experience and education for entry-level positions,” Martinez said.

It also would reduce certain license and testing fees, while waiving those charges entirely for state residents who receive welfare benefits.

The “consumer choice” provision says a person could practice without a state license as long as his or her employer informed prospective customers of the lack of a license, and the customer signed a statement acknowledging the disclosure, the order says.

However, that provision does not apply to occupations for which state statute specifically requires a license. Martinez spokesman Ben Cloutier did not respond to a request for a list of those occupations, nor those that would fall under the provision.

The order drew immediate praise for cutting back on state regulation but criticism among those who expressed concern for public health.

Roxroy Reid, chairman of the New Mexico Board of Social Work Examiners, said that although state law will still require social workers to have a license, the choice provision “gives permission to practice illegal social work.”

“You’re basically setting loose a group of unqualified, untrained individuals to interact in the lives of people that could do harm,” he said.

The governor’s action was hailed by groups such as the Rio Grande Foundation and Americans for Prosperity-New Mexico, both of which said the changes would help more state residents find work.

“Gov. Martinez’s executive order is one of the most significant occupational licensing reforms made by any state, ever, and one that would help break down barriers to opportunity for thousands of New Mexicans,” said AFP-NM State Director Burly Cain. “New Mexicans shouldn’t need a government permission slip to find work and support their families or to purchase critical services and products as consumers.”

The change drew a thumbs-down from one well-known Albuquerque tattoo artist.

Derek Toohey, of Factory Edge Tattoo, said it’s important for public health and for the tattoo artists’ reputation that those wielding tattoo needles are using sanitary equipment and are well-trained, as required for licensure.

“Anyone can pick up a tattoo machine and start tattooing folks and have no idea what they’re doing,” he said. “If someone’s operating out of their kitchen, you don’t know where they’re getting their sterilization method from or whether they have proper equipment, as opposed to stepping into a shop where there are (sanitary) practices put into play. It’s just like night and day.”

Other changes in the executive order include:

• Accepting professional experience as a substitute for a license when someone comes to New Mexico from a state that does not license the occupation – “unless it can be compellingly demonstrated that doing so would not adequately protect the public health or safety”.

• Reducing fees to 75 percent of the national average or less.

• Making it easier for those with criminal histories to obtain licenses.

• Expanding acceptance of online continuing education credits.