LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas legislative panel recommended the 93rd General Assembly repeal occupational licensing requirements for sprinkler fitters and people who sell motor vehicles and new recreational vehicles.
The Arkansas Legislative Council’s Occupational Licensing Review Subcommittee also suggested that lawmakers repeal the lime vendor applicator occupational license requirement and require registration instead.
The panel also recommended the state Board of Physical Therapy evaluate and restructure the licensure fees for any occupational authorization related to the practice of physical therapy.
The Legislative Council on Dec. 18 voted to accept these recommendations, which the subcommittee approved three days earlier. The subcommittee is co-chaired by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and Rep. Richard Womack, R-Arkadelphia.
In its written report to the council, the subcommittee said it is working toward introducing legislation during the 2021 regular session, which starts Jan. 11, and it provided copies of draft bills related to its recommendations.
Before the subcommittee approved its recommendations Dec. 15, in a voice vote with no audible dissenters, state Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, asked, “Are we definitely sure we want to run all of these bills?”
Cozart said he did not like the draft bill that would remove the licensure requirements for sprinkler fitters.
“I don’t think it is necessary,” he said. “The rest of the [recommended bills], I am good with.”
Irvin said, “These are just recommendations.
“We still have to pass legislation or amend legislation” in the regular session, she said. “There is still that process.”
Irvin said she felt uncomfortable removing the recommendation for sprinkler fitters because that proposal was worked on by Womack.
“We really did some good work,” she said afterward. “We established a very good systematic and methodical approach to reviewing these licenses so I am excited to continue to work on this issue.
“There is still work to be done, but we have charted a course,” she said.
Act 600 of 2019 tasked the Legislative Council with conducting annual rotating reviews of all occupational authorizations in the state with the purpose of determining and implementing the least restrictive form of those authorizations, while protecting consumers from significant harm to public health and safety, according to the subcommittee’s report.
The council created the Occupational Licensing Review Subcommittee to carry out this review.
The subcommittee has a six-year plan to review 307 occupational licenses issued by state entities.
Among the recommendations:
• On proposing to repeal the licensing of sprinkler fitters, the subcommittee said in its report, “The purpose is to eliminate a ‘double licensure’ as the business who employs Sprinkler Fitters is additionally required to carry a business license.”
The Arkansas Fire Protection Licensing Board reported 492 people were regulated as sprinkler fitters last year.
• The subcommittee gave a similar reason for eliminating the licensing of people who sell vehicles and new RVs.
“The purpose is to eliminate a ‘double licensure’ as the dealership [that] employs Motor Vehicle Salespersons and New Recreational Vehicle Salespersons is additionally required to carry a business license,” the subcommittee said in its written report.
The Motor Vehicle Commission reported that 4,358 people were regulated as new motor vehicle management/financier/salespeople and 105 people were regulated as new recreational vehicle management/financier/salespeople last year.
• The subcommittee said it recommends eliminating the occupational authorization for the lime vendor licensing requirement, changing it to registration only.
The Arkansas Plant Board said 35 people were regulated as lime vendors.
• Draft legislation calls for the Board of Physical Therapy to evaluate and restructure the licensing fees related to the practice of physical therapy.
The evaluation would include a fiscal impact statement, information about the use of licensing fees and a comparison of physical therapy licensing fees in surrounding states.
The board would be required to report its findings to the Legislative Council or appropriate subcommittee under the draft legislation. The report would be required to include recommendations for legislative changes or rule changes or both, and the board would be required to issue the rules needed to implement the recommendations for rule changes.
The legislative subcommittee isn’t the only entity looking at licensing.
In February, before the covid-19 pandemic, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced the creation of a working group to continue the study of occupational licensing rules and regulations that began with a group that he appointed a few years ago. The new group is called the Occupational Li-censure Reform Sustainability Group and co-chaired by Sen. John Cooper, R-Jonesboro, and Cozart.
Hutchinson said, “The results of the original working group was a series of 83 bills to reduce the burden of licensure in some occupations and professions and 45 of these bills became law.
“Because of this success a Sustainability Group was formed to continue the review and success in eliminating unnecessary licensure burdens on our citizens and our military personnel and spouses,” the Republican governor said in a written statement.