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Bob's Legislative Blog
Friday, February 24 2017



House Bill 1551 was filed by Rep. Richard Womack on February 16, 2017. The bill intends to significantly limit the State’s ability to enforce occupational licensing standards and allow private individuals to perform skilled services without any training or other certification requirements.  


A large group of business associations met at the State Chamber on February 20 and produced this information:

  • This bill would allow private individuals to engage in work (which could include HVAC installation, carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, etc…) without first becoming licensed or even registering with the State, if that is currently required by a specific Board or Commission (e.g. plumbers). 
    • Those individuals cannot advertise their services as “licensed,” “certified,” or “registered,” but can hold themselves out as having the ability to perform them.
  • There are 11 jobs that are “carved out” from this bill, meaning that those positions would still require whatever current licensing standards are required. 
  • Those jobs include: attorneys, accountants, real estate “agents” or “brokers,” engineers, physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, “insurance producers” and architects. 
    • Certainly, it is still unclear to what extent these 11 exceptions reach (e.g., it is unclear whether a “financial advisor” or “bookkeeper” qualifies as an “accountant” under this bill).
  • The bill also does not apply to public school teachers (but not private school teachers) and government employees. 
  • Regardless, if this bill passes, every non-governmental job not qualifying as one of the 11 listed exceptions will no longer be required to be licensed, certified, or even registered with the State, unless the State can prove that the licensing requirements are not unreasonable or impose a “substantial burden” on a private individual. 
  • This means that the State must sue individuals, on a case-by-case basis, every time it believes that a certain level of education, training, or other personal qualifications (such as background checks) are necessary to protect the public’s health and safety.
  • This bill is being championed as allowing citizens the right to earn a living without licensure fees, thus creating an unlevel playing field with some individuals and businesses (who choose to follow licensing standards) not having to follow the same rules as others in the same trade.
  • Missouri has few laws related to licensing but Unions control workers’ qualifications and there is much litigation.
  • The bill highlighted other less restrictive options, including allowing a wronged consumer to sue in court, which must be performed before the State could require any bond or licensing standards. 
    • This means that the first recourse available to private consumers is to sue the unqualified contractor or service provider they hired, and wait on the Attorney General’s office or another state office to file its own civil suit to enforce necessary job requirements.
  • This bill transfers a tremendous amount of legislative power to the judicial system as the State has the burden of proving that something like a background check is necessary to protect the public safety. 
  • The bill does not prohibit the State from continuing to offer licensing, registration, etc., but it cannot prohibit “John Doe” (whether from Arkansas or out of state) from doing certain work unless the State can, as stated in the previous bullet, establish, in a court or other governmental administrative tribunal, that the “health and welfare” of Arkansas consumers requires the specific job at issue to be performed by someone who is licensed, certified, and/or registered.
  • This bill includes, under its limitations, any licensure or certification requirements mandated by Arkansas statute, regulations, and would also encompass local ordinances.


Licensing is the historic procedure to establish a reasonable level of competence in trades, certain business and professions to protect the public from dishonest or incompetent individuals

Posted by: Bob Balhorn, CAE AT 03:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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