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West Virginia House continues occupational licensing reform efforts over objections

House Government Organization Committee Minority Chairman Phillip Diserio speaks against an effort to reduce the number of hours needed to obtain certain con tractor licenses. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — The House of Delegates passed another bill Monday to ease pathways to receiving certain occupational licenses.

House Bill 2008 — amending requirements for licensure relating to elevator mechanics, heating, ventilating, and cooling systems (HVAC) technicians, electricians, and plumbers – passed 61-37. The bill heads to the state Senate next.

HB 2008 would lower the hours or years of experience required to obtain occupational licensing for those trades and ease other requirements and restrictions to bring them into alignment with surrounding states. It also removes military veterans to receive HVAC technician licenses with examination.

“The purpose … is to alter the hours of licenses … to encourage skilled people in these professions to come live and work in West Virginia,” said House Government Organization Committee Vice Chairman Geoff Foster, R-Putnam. “The bill brings some requirements in line with surrounding states to make states more competitive within the available talent pool.”

The bill is a companion to House Bill 2007, creating the Universal Recognition of Occupational Licenses Act, that passed last week in the House. HB 2007 would require West Virginia’s occupational licensing boards 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.

Another piece of legislation, House Bill 2006, moved West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board from the Division of Labor and put it in the same code section as Chapter 30 occupational licensing boards.

House Government Organization Committee Minority Chairman Phillip Diserio, D-Brooke, was not happy with the bill. A retired electrician and union member, Diserio said he’s against the efforts of House Republicans to interfere with occupational licensing boards.

“I don’t want anyone to think their occupation is less than anyone else’s,” Diserio said. “I told you the other day, you overstepped your boundaries.”

Diserio criticized Republicans for pushing these bills and amending them to remove certain occupations. Last week, HB 2008 was amended to remove crane operators from the bill. HB 2007 was amended to remove certain medical licensing boards and private detectives.

“It’s bad for West Virginians who pay taxes and for their safety,” Diserio said. “Do it for one or do it for all, but you’re not down here to represent (House Republican) leadership, you’re down here to represent constituents and I ask you to vote the bill down.”

Foster said supporters of the status quo when it comes to the current licensing scheme were trying to control the available workforce instead of trying to grow jobs. Foster said the current number of hours to obtain a plumber’s license is more than what is required before flying a commercial airliner.

“They’ve become kind of a more protection mentality,” Foster said. “What we need to do is encourage … people to get into this state and people in this state to be able to have a job.”

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

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