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West Virginia bill would recognize occupational licenses from other states

CHARLESTON — A bill allowing for people with contractor and occupational licenses in other states the ability to work in West Virginia without state board approvals made it out of committee Friday.

The House Government Organization Committee adopted House Bill 2007 on Friday afternoon, creating the Universal Recognition of Occupational Licenses Act. The bill now heads to the full House of Delegates for a vote.

HB 2007 allows for people moving to West Virginia to have their occupational licenses or other authorization to practice in other states recognized by West Virginia occupational licensing boards.

Under this new law, West Virginia’s occupational licensing boards would be required to issue licenses to individuals with valid licenses from other states who have had those licenses for more than one year and the person’s licenses are in good standing in the state they’re coming from.

The person seeking the West Virginia license would need to apply to the respective state licensing board and pay a fee. The act would prohibit anyone from receiving a state license who has a disqualifying criminal record, whose license has been revoked by another state, or who voluntarily surrendered their license, or has a pending complaint before another state’s licensing board.

HB 2007 would affect the occupational licensing boards for professional services under chapters 30 of state code; occupational licenses for electricians, electrical inspectors, and fire protection work under chapter 29 of state code; and contractors licenses under chapter 21 of state code

A number of witnesses representing various licensing boards and professional services testified that HB 2007 would be unfair to their members who have had to meet West Virginia’s licensing standards, as well as create an unsafe situation for people coming from other states with more lax occupational licensing standards.

Despite committee members attempting to ask witnesses about their opinions on the bill and their experiences with licensing boards in other states, committee Chairman Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, kept discussion strictly on the bill’s intent.

“I am going to cut this off if we’re going to keep heading down this road,” Steele said. “I think all of us clearly see what you’re doing in here, and we’re remaining calm about it and trying to give you a little leeway.”

“I would like to have the opportunity to have all these people get up here and talk because apparently we did invite some people here and we didn’t get to have those people,” said Del. Philip Diserio, D-Brooke, the minority chairman for the House Government Organization Committee. “In the nine years I’ve been here, this is the broadest bill I’ve ever seen and for us not to be able to talk about it and pass it through, I just don’t agree with it.”

House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, told committee members to expect plenty of phone calls and emails from people opposing the bill.

“We are getting ready to pass something here that could affect all West Virginians getting a job well done,” Skaff said. “We are allowing an avenue — and I don’t mean everybody — but an avenue of substandard workers to come to West Virginia that don’t live up to the expectations that we’ve set.”

Committee Vice Chairman Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, said the bill will help companies recruit more people to move to West Virginia from other states and more easily find work.

“What it offers the opportunity to do is hire somebody and say, ‘Come to West Virginia, You must live here,'” Foster said. “And if you do decide to live here, come to West Virginia, we can get you licensed much more quickly, and you can go immediately to work and bring your family here and pay your income taxes here.”

Also Friday, the House Government Organization Committee approved a bill renaming the Division of Tourism and the West Virginia Development Office to the Department of Tourism and the Department of Economic Development, as well as making Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby and WVDO Director Mitch Carmichael cabinet-level officers.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com

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