Under the Dome

Committee backs off proposal to cut licensing boards

Optometrist Paul Archambault talks with U.S. Army veteran Kenneth Chavis during a glaucoma examination at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center. Optometry is one of several professions regulated in North Carolina by occupational licensing boards.
Optometrist Paul Archambault talks with U.S. Army veteran Kenneth Chavis during a glaucoma examination at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center. Optometry is one of several professions regulated in North Carolina by occupational licensing boards. AP

A legislative committee on Tuesday retreated from a controversial proposal to eliminate or consolidate nearly two dozen occupational licensing boards, saying the issue was much more complicated than they realized.

Instead, the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee agreed to postpone further discussion until after this year’s legislative short session, which begins April 25.

Dozens of people with connections to those licensing boards filled a large meeting room in the legislative office building to argue against the changes, which surfaced last month in a proposed bill drafted in a subcommittee. The limited-government organization Americans for Prosperity has been pushing to curtail some of the boards, saying the state overregulates some occupations and makes it harder to find jobs.

In some cases, the proposal would move licensing boards into other boards or state agencies.

Those who licensed or are licensed by the boards argue that regulation protects the public. There are more than 50 such boards.

Sen. Andy Wells, a first-term Republican real estate agent from Hickory, had been shepherding the draft bill, complaining that the General Assembly has little control over what the boards do. Wells expressed frustration that his subcommittee had not been able to secure all the information it has sought from the boards.

But other members of the committee said they didn’t fully understand all the work the licensing boards do until Tuesday’s hearing.

“It’s abundantly clear we need more information,” said Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican attorney from Jefferson. “We don’t want to be overregulating, but we also want to protect the public health and safety. There’s a lot more than we were aware of.”

Rep. Jeff Collins, a Republican financial consultant from Rocky Mount, said most of the licensing boards discussed Tuesday seemed to be necessary.

Occupational licenses include regulation of electrolysis, interpreters, irrigation contractors, recreational therapy, acupuncture, foresters, locksmiths, podiatrists, alarm systems, librarians, optometry and midwifery.

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