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West Virginia House paves way for easier transfer of occupational licenses from other states

House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, holding up a copy of “Building Your Own Home for Dummies,” raises concerns about the quality of workers transferring their occupational licenses to West Virginia. (Photo Provided)

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill Thursday allowing for people moving to West Virginia to bring their out-of-state occupational licenses with them, though some lawmakers believe this will weaken the state’s rules and regulations.

House Bill 2007, creating the Universal Recognition of Occupational Licenses Act, passed 65-33. The bill now heads state Senate.

HB 2007 — part of a two-year effort by House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and House Republicans to review the state’s onerous occupational licensing program — 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.

“Quite simply, the purpose of this bill is to recognize a person’s license from another state for licensure in this state and provide an avenue for doing so,” said House Government Organization Vice Chairman Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, a co-sponsor of the bill.

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The act would prohibit anyone from receiving a state license who has a disqualifying criminal record, whose license has been revoked by another state, or who voluntarily surrendered their license, or has a pending complaint before another state’s licensing board.

The only boards exempt from HB 2007 were the boards for lawyers and police officers, but an amendment adopted Wednesday exempted private investigators and several medical and osteopathic boards as well.

The House rejected all attempts by Democratic lawmakers to amend the bill. The Republican majority shot down requirements for E-Verify to determine whether the applicant can work in the U.S., requirements for tax disclosure to determine if the applicant is paying state taxes, additional penalties for improperly obtaining a state occupational license, and re-establishing the authority of the Massage Therapy Licensure Board out of concern for potential increases in prostitution and human trafficking.

Democratic lawmakers believe HB 2007 is unfair to West Virginians who have followed the requirements to obtain occupational licensing under the state’s existing standards, as well as create an unsafe situation for people coming from other states with more lax occupational licensing standards.

“This bill impacts public health and safety across a wide range of professions,” said Del. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, a professional engineer. “This bill is a one-size-fits-all approach to a wide variety of professions that each already have systems in place regarding accepting licenses from other states, professional engineers included.”

Democrats believe the bill will create a flood of unqualified workers crowding out West Virginia workers. House Minority Leader Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, also criticized Republican leaders of the House Government Organization Committee for not allow several representatives of various occupational licensing boards to testify during the committee vote on the bill last Friday.

“I thought we introduced legislation to fix a problem, to fix something that needs to be better or an issue that was brought to our attention,” Skaff said. “I haven’t heard the problem. We didn’t hear the problem once in committee testimony. I’ve yet to hear one person tell me what the problem is and what are we trying to fix.”

Foster cited a study by the free-market Goldwater Institute after Arizona passed a similar bill in 2019. According to the study, more than 1,400 people have applied for their occupational license since the law was enacted, with 1,186 licenses being approved and only 16 licenses rejected. Foster hopes to see a similar effect on job growth in West Virginia.

“This is about being proactive and trying to attract people to this state,” Foster said. “This provides an avenue for ‘you can come here and live here,’ but not only that, you can get your license quickly and go right to work. This is to attract people — skilled licensees — that want to work here.”

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

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