Clinical psychologist Carol Gandolfo had two licenses to practice in California – one in clinical psychology and one to be a family marriage therapist – and had worked in two state hospitals in the Golden State. She’s bilingual and specializes in forensics and developmental disabilities.
Since moving to Arizona in 2007, Gandolfo has completed her California-required continuing education credits, and has volunteered for a number of missions, including the Critical Incident Stress Management team at the Sedona Fire Department. As president of the Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Northern Arizona, Gandolfo has written a sex trafficking manual now required for all Sedona Department of Public Safety troopers.
None of that was good enough for the licensing authorities in Arizona, who gave Gandolfo varying (and, she says, unsubstantiated) reasons for not giving her a license to practice clinical psychology in the Grand Canyon State. So Gandolfo has had to limit her Arizona business to California clients, except for the non-counseling work she does.
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“It hurt. You put in all this effort, and then you are told you aren’t good enough,” Gandolfo says.
That will change in August for Gandolfo and many others in a wide array of licensed occupations in Arizona, where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation making it much easier for people licensed in other states to gain similar licensing in Arizona. The measure – the first of its kind in the nation – affects a slew of jobs, from barbers to real estate agents to physicians. Advocates say it will both make it easier for people to make a move to Arizona and provide more practitioners in areas like mental health where there is a shortage.
“It’s an Arizona original idea that started here in our governor’s office and our legislature” after Ducey and state lawmakers herd from frustrated workers who wanted to set up shop in Arizona, says Emily Rajakovich, the state’s director of boards and commissions. “This is a policy to help individual workers get to work, and to support their families as soon as possible” after arriving. It also help employers recruit “the best and the brightest” from other states, she says.
Other states have done limited recognition of out-of-state licenses. For example, 29 states are part of an Enhanced Burse Licensure Compact, making it easier for nurses to work across state lines. After Hurricane Harvey, Texas agreed to recognize out-of-state licenses for certain health care providers assisting in the recovery. New York offered temporary teacher certification for educators fleeing Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But only Arizona’s law, which takes effect Aug. 27, applies to occupational licensing across the board.
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States issue licenses for various occupations to ensure consumers and patients are being provided services by a qualified practitioner. (Licensing also provides a source of income for states, which collect fees when they issue new licenses.) Different states have different standards for acquiring a license, and defenders of meticulous licensure argue that no state should have to give the same work opportunities to someone who does not meet their specific standards.
But the system, critics say, has gotten way out of hand. In the 1950s, just 5% of occupations required licenses, compared to about 25% now, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The report found that imposing additional requirements on people to get licensed in another state created new issues: Overall employment in that licensed field dropped, prices for goods and services increase by 3% to 16%, and the quality of those goods and services did not improve.
A separate report by the Institute for Justice in 2017 found that state have disparate approaches to licensing: Louisiana and Washington license more of the occupations studied than any other state – 77 of 102 different licenses issued by various states. Wyoming licenses the fewest, with 26 occupations.
Nor do the licensing standards always make sense, the report said. For example, it noted that in most states, it takes 12 times longer to get a license to cut hair as a cosmetologist than to get a license to administer life-saving care as an emergency medical technician.
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Louisiana is the only state to license florists (an effort in the Bayou State last year to delicense the occupation was defeated, in part because of an outcry from florists themselves).
“There’s a certain protectionist nature to it,” says Republican state Rep. Julie Emerson, sponsor of the bill to de-license florists. Her colleagues received calls from their local florists, who said their work would be considered “less professional” if they were not licensed, says Emerson, who also tried unsuccessfully to de-license hair-braiding in Louisiana.
Different states also have different requirements, often for no clear reason, critics note. For example, New York requires 1,000 hours of training for cosmetologists, while Montana and Idaho demand twice that. In Pennsylvania, hair braiders must train for 300 hours and pay a licensing fee.
It’s generally the practitioners themselves who fight for licensing standards, says Paul Avelar, managing attorney at the Institute for Justice’s Arizona office and who helped work on the new Arizona law. “It seems counter-intuitive, but these licenses are a boon for the people already in the industry,” Avelar says. “Licensing is a giant ‘keep out’ sign.”
And keep out it does, says Janna Johnson, a University of Minnesota assistant professor of social policy and policy analysis and one of the authors of the NBER study. Her research showed that licensed workers were 7% less likely to go to another state to work.
Licensing advocates “almost always make a concerted argument about protecting the consumer. And that’s a great thing, when it comes to a licensed physician,” Johnson says. But there’s less of an argument for licensing jobs like interior designer, she says. “It’s a lot of special interest organizations – they lobby,” she adds. “It erects a barrier to entering the occupation, and keeps their earnings high. It just means we all pay more for their services.”
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The rules also tend to hurt certain groups, such as low-income workers, minorities, entrepreneurs and military families, according to a Brookings Institution report. The license to braid, for example, tends to affect African American women who do cornrow designs in hair.
Military families are especially hard-hit, experts say. The National Bureau of Economic Research report for example, found that about 35% of military spouses in the labor force work in professions that require state licenses or certification. They are also 10 times more likely to have moved across state lines in the last year than their civilian counterparts, the study said – and they don’t have a choice.
Such families “tend to be very mobile. They don’t have any control over where they’re going to be stationed,” Avelar says. “If the spouse is a hairdresser or nurse or teacher, it’s completely out of their hands where their partner is going to be stationed.”
A study by the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that the military trains people in skills applicable to at least 962 civilian occupations. The burden of achieving different licensing standards in different states makes the transition from military to civilian life even more onerous, the study said.
Arizona’s law does not allow for automatic licenses for people from other states. It applies to people who have been licensed in their profession for at least one year, are in good standing in all states where they are licensed, pay applicable Arizona fees, and meet all residency, testing and background check requirements. But such applicants will not be required to complete duplicate training – something Gandolfo says she felt the state was pressuring her to do, after rejecting her for an Arizona license.
“I just want to help people,” by counseling first responders and people with developmental disabilities, Gandolfo says. Next month, she can.
Susan Milligan, Senior Writer
Susan Milligan is a political and foreign affairs writer and contributed to a biography of the … Read more
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