By Maureen Hayden and Scott Smith
Indianapolis — 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 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 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 boosts their odds for employment since their license is seen as a measure of their training and proficiency.
Kokomo stylist Kenlyn Watson was satisfied with Tuesday’s news.
She was at the Statehouse last year when a horde of hairdressers wearing black and pink smocks descended on the Legislature to lobby against the 2012 version of the bill.
“You’re dealing with a safety factor for the public,” Watson said. “If there’s no rules and regulations as a deterrent to do the right thing, something will happen.”
Mary Taylor, an instructor at the Prosser Career Education Center in New Albany, said the bill could affect the job opportunities of her students after they leave her program.
“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.”
Practitioners of other professions potentially affected by the bill had opinions, but they weren’t as vocal as the cosmetology licensees.
Kim Fipps, a Howard County home inspector, said the licensing threshold isn’t high enough.
“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.
In the Pence version of the bill, the occupational licensing requirements would have been automatically sunsetted unless the General Assembly passed legislation to keep a specific occupational license in place.
Head said there were legislators in both the Senate and the House who wanted the opposite to happen. They wanted licensing requirements to continue unless the General Assembly voted to end a specific license.
Under Senate Bill 520, the occupations that faced the automatic elimination of licensing requirements included athletic agents, dietitians, professional geologists, home inspectors, interior designers, land surveyors, massage therapists, professional soil scientists, auctioneers, real estate brokers, certified surgical technologists, behavior analysts, cosmetologists, barbers, electrologists, estheticians and manicurists.
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.”