Back to the Future on Licensing in Missouri
Many are familiar with the plot of the classic movie Back to the Future. While I am probably thinking of my job too much, I see this story relating to the status of licensing regulations in the most recent legislative session.
Missouri passed universal licensing reciprocity in 2020, meaning licenses from all other states can be used in Missouri. For example, 37 states across the country require licensure to be a makeup artist. Licensing reciprocity means that anyone who has a license in one of the 37 states can have Missouri licensing requirements waived when they move to Missouri to be a makeup artist. This policy lowers barriers to entry for professionals and in turn, increases the supply of workers and services. With increased supply and competition, quality increases while prices decrease.
However, Missouri legislators have taken the DeLorean and gone back in time by sending two bills (Senate Bill (SB) 157 and SB 70) to the governor’s desk. The bills would create a new licensing compact and also have Missouri join two other existing compacts. Licensing compacts allow workers with licenses in one state to practice without additional licensing requirements in other states in the compact. These compacts are essentially a less inclusive version of licensing reciprocity. Former Show-Me Institute Analyst Corianna Baier explained the harm licensing compacts can cause:
[T]he current licensing reciprocity statute states that licensing reciprocity “shall not apply to an oversight body that has entered into a licensing compact with another state for the regulation of practice under the oversight body’s jurisdiction.” On its face, this language indicates that the license compact would overrule licensing reciprocity to the injury of Missouri consumers.
Essentially, a compact would partially cancel out licensing reciprocity. Missouri, like Mrs. McFly, is obsessing over the wrong thing. To use the makeup artist example: with reciprocity, anyone from any state (which has a license) can work in Missouri without having to get a new license; under a compact, only makeup artists from states included in the compact reap the benefits.
As Institute analysts have noted repeatedly, this glitch needs to be ironed out with a language change. If we remove the “compact exception” then Missouri can “restore the timeline” and Missouri will once again have full licensing reciprocity.
At this point you may be wondering: what is the benefit of compacts? The benefit of keeping compacts is that many other states don’t have reciprocity. For example, to practice telehealth in another state, one needs to be eligible in that state. While Missouri lets any license apply to our own state, suppose Arkansas does not have the same rules. Therefore, with the passage of the compact, a doctor in Cape Girardeau could now practice telehealth in Little Rock if Arkansas became a member of the same compact.
State regulatory boards are certainly satisfied with the expansion of compacts in our state, but our policymakers need to look out for the interests of Missouri consumers. Fixing the language that puts compacts and reciprocity in conflict would be a win for everyone in Missouri. Hopefully we will not need two more sequels to solve our issues.