Newcomers to New Mexico should be able to easily obtain a license to cut hair, build homes or practice acupuncture if they have credentials from another state or, in some cases, military experience, according to an executive order issued Wednesday by Gov. Susana Martinez.
With her order, Martinez aims to reform the system of occupational licensing in New Mexico by lowering or waiving fees, removing regulatory barriers and making an easier path to jobs for low-income residents, prior criminal offenders, newcomers and members of the military, according to a statement from Martinez’s office.
The governor instructed the boards and commissions that license accountants, architects and massage therapists, among other occupations, to start crafting rules that would reduce the burden of obtaining an occupational license. The order also allows some employees to work without a license so long as customers are informed and agree to accept service under that condition.
That provision, called “consumer choice,” according to Martinez’s order, does not apply to medical professionals.
The directors at professional associations contacted Wednesday for comment said they had not yet read the order.
Mike Puelle, CEO of the New Mexico chapter of the Association of General Contractors, said reform of occupational licensing should recognize that today’s workforce is highly mobile. Puelle, who had not read the order, said the details matter.
“As an association, we absolutely understand the value and public policy of a licensing system,” he said. “What we’re looking for is one that is responsive to the current market and not locking people out of careers.”
Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, an Albuquerque-based public policy research group that favors free markets, said reform of occupational licensing is a nonpartisan issue. That may be an important point, considering Martinez and her appointees will leave office next year. Implementing the reforms in Wednesday’s order will take months at best.
“There could be an effort to counteract some of these revised regulations, loosened regulations,” Gessing said. “I hope there won’t be any backsliding, but you never know.”
The order also instructs boards and commissions to reduce the fees associated with a license application to 75 percent of the national average or less for comparable occupations; reduce education and experience requirements to the lowest level allowed by law, provided the change does not impact public health and safety; and waive all licensing and testing fees for low-income applicants and members of the military who require an occupational license as part of their duties.
Fees would be waived for New Mexicans eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Low Income Home Energy Assistance for Needy Families, and food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The order also directs boards and commissions to give prior criminal offenders more predictability and aid in becoming licensed by specifying what crimes will be considered during a license application. If denied a license, a prior offender should receive a clearly stated reason along with an easily understood appeal procedure.
The order applies to the boards and commissions that license barbers and cosmetologists, nurses, doctors, dental health professionals, interior designers, workers in the gaming industry, social workers, veterinarians, engineers, surveyors and many others.
Gessing said Martinez’s order, which follows an order in July directing licensing bodies to look for potential reforms, does not lower professional standards or pose risks to the public.
“It doesn’t hinder public health and safety,” he said. “I don’t see anything that would affect public health in a negative way.”