50 years later, Hawaii’s law requiring professional licenses could be overhauled

Hunter Wilson is building an impressive resume as a Honolulu barber.

At 27, he runs a stylish new hairdressing salon, Cutlery, in Kaimuki: a combination of bar, restaurant and hairdressing salon. And he has traveled the continent to represent the Dutch product line Reuzel. It’s a good start for a young professional who started his career 1,500 hours of training required to be a barber under Hawaii law when he was only 17 years old.

But there’s one thing Wilson doesn’t have: a barber’s license that he can use in other states. This is a big difference from regions like Arizona, for example, which has reciprocity agreements with 28 other states, according to the American Barber Association. And the bottom line is that there are some things Wilson can’t do when he’s on the road, even though he’s laid off in Hawaii.

“I can still cut the hair like a demo,” he says. “But I can’t get paid. I cannot make a pop-up.

Hunter Wilson
Hunter Wilson, manager of The Cutlery hair salon in Kaimuki, has a Hawaiian license to cut hair, but it is not recognized anywhere else. Stewart Yerton / Civil Beat

And barbers are hardly alone. While more than a dozen other states have made sweeping changes to recognize professional licenses granted in other states, Hawaii continues to rely on an ad hoc patchwork approach founded on a law passed nearly half a century ago.

This may be about to change.

“There are areas where there are shortages where it makes sense to look at reciprocity,” said Representative Aaron Ling Johanson, who chairs the Chamber’s Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee. “The door is certainly open to further reform and the exploration of reciprocity.”

Although Johanson has said protecting public health, safety and well-being remains the primary concern of his committee, lawmakers have shown openness to reforming the laws. In the last session, for example, the legislature passed a bill to facilitate the transfer of licenses to Hawaii by military dependents, Johanson noted.

And it makes sense to consider more such changes, said House Speaker Scott Saiki.

“The House seeks to modernize and reform state government, and it works perfectly in that direction,” he said.

Protect the public, not the professions

The 2022 legislative session will mark 45 years since lawmakers enacted Hawaii’s Regulatory Licensing Reform Act of 1977, which provides the framework the state uses to license a range of professional professions, from barbers and cosmetologists to auto mechanics, acupuncturists and boxing promoters.

Lawmakers at the time noted an increase concern about a “rapid proliferation” of regulatory boards and commissions as well as the perception that licensing requirements were put in place not to protect consumers but to exclude newcomers from the profession. “In the past, regulatory decisions have been strongly influenced by the trade or professional group concerned,” said lawmakers.

The resulting law stipulated that the government could only regulate or license a profession when “Reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety or well-being of consumers of the services”. The purpose of licensure should be to protect the public and should not increase the costs of services or “unreasonably restrict entry into the professions and vocations of all qualified persons,” the law says.

Speaker Aaron Johanson's Conference Committee.
After working on a bill to help military dependents transfer professional licenses to Hawaii during the 2021 legislative session, Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson, right, says it makes sense to proceed a systematic review of Hawaii’s vocational and vocational licensing programs. Cory Lum / Civil Beat

A central question is whether licensing requirements unreasonably restrict qualified individuals to perform work for which they have been trained – work they could have done for years while licensed in another state. .

Hawaii has 25 professional and professional committees, which are mainly composed of professionals from sectors regulated by the boards, and 27 additional licensing programs regulated by the director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Professional requirements vary greatly, depending on the statutes and administrative rules governing the different professions.

For some professions, existing laws already include reciprocity provisions or something known as a “license by rider,” which allows the director of the DCCA to issue a license to an applicant licensed in another state. These provisions apply to at least 18 of the 52 professions regulated by the Professional and Professional Licensing Division of the DCCA, said Jayson Horiuchi, spokesperson for the DCCA.

These professions include behavior analysts, chiropractors, collection agents, dispensing opticians, hearing aid salespeople, pharmacists, social workers, and respiratory therapists.

But that leaves over 30 trades and professions where people can’t just move to Hawaii and do their jobs without jumping through some hoops no matter how accomplished they are. This naturally benefits those already licensed in Hawaii, and it’s usually the people who control the boards that set the licensing requirements.

One example is the Elevator Mechanic Licensing Board. The seven-member board is said to be made up of four elevator mechanics, two members of the public, and one non-voting member of the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. But only five positions on the board of directors are filled, four of them by mechanics.

In addition, the President, Robert “Tony” Greig, is also the President of the Hawaii Elevator Mechanics Union, the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 126, and the Vice President, Evan Fong, is the Vice President. union.

Meanwhile, elevator repair mechanics must pass an exam prescribed by the Hawaii Elevator Mechanics Licensing Board and show proof of having completed a two-year apprenticeship whether or not the applicant is licensed elsewhere.

Greig, the board chairman and union president, did not respond to calls for comment.

Barriers are relatively low for registered nurses moving to Hawaii from other states, said the president of the nurses’ union. But Governor David Ige still had to issue an emergency order waiving Hawaii’s licensing requirements for nurses moving here to help deal with an increase in Covid-19 cases earlier this year. Courtesy of: The Queen’s Health Systems

How Hawaii’s licensing requirements prevent necessary professionals from relocating here became easily evident during the pandemic. Governor David Ige had to sign a emergency order waive Hawaii’s licensing requirements for registered nurses in other states so they can come here to help deal with an increase in Covid-19 cases.

“These suspensions ensure that all health care demands are met as Hawaii continues to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and its variants,” the order said.

For nurses moving between most US states, such emergency license waivers are not required. This is because most states have signed the Nursing license agreement, a multi-state licensing program that allows nurses to switch between compact states without having to obtain additional licenses. There are now at least 30 compact states and a number of others where laws are pending or awaiting implementation, including California. Guam and the US Virgin Islands have also signed.

The pact could make sense for Hawaii, said Dan Ross, president of the Hawaii Nurses Association, OPIU Local 50, although he said the current Hawaii licensing requirement for nurses is not too onerous. . Nurses with existing licenses do not have to retake the test, he said. But there are administrative processes that take time.

“I think there is room for improvement,” he said.

“I don’t think that’s a major obstacle to preventing people from coming here who want to come here,” he said of Hawaii’s licensure program. “The main thing you want to know is if there is any disciplinary action against them by the board of directors of the state they come from?” “

Hawaii Honors Military Spouse Licenses

Hawaii has already made it easier for some licensed professionals elsewhere to work here. In the 2021 session, lawmakers passed a measure requiring Hawaii to approve temporary licenses for spouses of service members stationed in Hawaii and licensed in another state. The law applies to two dozen professions, including acupuncturists, dentists, nurses, mental health counselors, doctors and psychologists.

Perhaps the time has come to move beyond creating an exception only for the military, Johanson said.

“I think it makes sense to have a comprehensive and systematic review of regulated industries to make sure we have up-to-date information on what it makes sense to keep as is and what could be improved,” said he declared.

The legislature would likely provide resources to the DCCA to enable it to do an initial analysis, which lawmakers could use to guide policy development.

“I think it’s healthy to have this discussion,” Johanson said.

Hawaii’s Changing Economy»Is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.

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