At its best, professional licensure protects the public from significant problems arising from the problem of asymmetric information in the marketplace. Said another way, licensure can help ensure that a doctor providing cancer treatment has met specific qualification requirements, as it is unlikely many patients will possess sufficient medical expertise to rationally select a provider in the absence of such a licensing environment.
Like many other systems, licensure also has the potential for negative effects, one of which is an artificial restriction on providers leading to increased costs to consumers. It can also create impediments to interstate trade. Concerns such as this led our previous presidential administration to release a report on the benefits and effects of occupational licensing: “Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers.”
The concern of potential negative impacts from licensure provisions also seems to be a significant factor in the Ohio Legislature Senate Bill 255 - Reform Occupational Licensing. In its current form, the bill would subject all Ohio licensure provisions to a 5-year renewal cycle (aka sunset provisions). Meaning that every 5 years each licensing board would be required to provide justification for continuing its licensure provisions along with a report comparing the current methods with alternative, less restrictive options. Renewal of a licensing system would require passage of legislature reauthorizing it for the next renewal cycle.
Were this bill to become law, not only would implementing SE licensure (SEAoO Position Statement) become more difficult, engineering licensure in general would face a continual challenge to demonstrate its value to society. If this bill fails to become law, the fact that sunsetting licensure gained sufficient support to become a bill shows our profession could benefit from a more effective communication of the value of engineering licensure.
Please share your thoughts regarding this topic and the questions raised. We also welcome your input on any other topic related to engineering licensure. Please contact us if you would like to contribute to this column.
Timothy M. Gilbert, P.E., S.E., SECB
SEAoO Licensure Committee