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Licensing reforms require legislative approval

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

It looks like Gov. Susana Martinez’s “consumer choice” option when it comes to occupational licensing will not give consumers much of a choice after all.

That provision, part of a larger order the governor issued mandating broad reforms, first needs approval from lawmakers.

The same holds true for a section of the order seeking to make it easier for out-of-state professionals to practice in New Mexico, according to information submitted to the Governor’s Office by the Department of Regulation and Licensing in August.

The order, issued Oct. 3, required the state’s boards and commissions to “promulgate rules or policies to accomplish” the governor’s changes.

Some of the changes can be done without the Legislature, including licensing fee reductions.

But the reason legislative approval is needed for others is that all of the occupations and trades targeted by the executive order – from barbers and surveyors to architects and funeral directors – are covered by state law. Executive orders are sufficient to mandate changes in regulation, but not to change law.

That means lawmakers would have to approve one of the biggest changes in the order – the consumer choice provision, which would allow professionals in non-medical-related fields to practice without a license as long as they got a customer’s signed consent.

The exception is for interior designers, who already have authority under state law to practice without a license as long as they let their customers know.

Easing “reciprocity” rules so that professionals in other states could more easily set up shop in New Mexico also would first need a change in “numerous board and committee state laws,” according to the information submitted by the regulation department.

Still, Martinez spokesman Ben Cloutier said the order would create “a blueprint for New Mexico’s Legislature – as well as governors and legislators across the country – to move forward on legislation that will create greater access to jobs and economic opportunity.”

The order was developed with the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian group based in Arlington, Va., that has pushed a similar move in other states, according to a senior legislative counsel for the institute.

Provisions that do not require legislative approval, according to the Governor’s Office, are those that would slash licensing fees, update websites so information on licensing is concise “and easily visible” to applicants; add a check box on applications for military personnel and their families; establish a list of crimes or classifications of crimes to be considered in a licensing request and waive fees for New Mexico families enrolled in state assistance programs.

Those items will “immediately begin the process of removing unnecessary and burdensome regulatory requirements,” Cloutier said.

The head of the Regulation and Licensing Department says that he supports deregulation as long as it doesn’t affect public health and safety and that his staff will work with boards to recommend legislative changes.

Superintendent Mike Unthank said the executive order “gives us an opportunity to go to each independent board and … see what can be deregulated.”

In fact, he said, his department and the boards it serves began several years ago to revamp requirements deemed no longer necessary.

For example, the department and the Construction Industries Commission dropped a licensing requirement for painters, workers laying ceramic tile and fencing contractors erecting walls under a certain height because there were no safety concerns for those jobs, Unthank said.

At the same time, other professions are pushing to make state licensing a requirement.

Naturopaths, who use traditional healing methods, want to be licensed so they can treat Medicaid and Medicare patients, Unthank said.

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