Occupational License Compacts Counteract Reciprocity
In 2020, Missouri became one of the first states to enact universal licensing reciprocity. This was a huge step forward that allows Missouri to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses, making it much easier for trained professionals to offer services to Missourians.
Now House Bill 2138 seeks to establish Missouri as part of a licensure compact, which is an agreement between and among states that establishes mutual recognition of specific licenses and is overseen by a third-party regulatory group. This specific compact, the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact, would establish mutual license recognition for audiologists and speech-language pathologists in the 15 states in the compact.
There are two main benefits to joining a compact: licensed workers in other compact states can more easily relocate to your state, and licensed workers in your state can more easily relocate or expand their reach to other compact states. Missouri lawmakers have already provided an expanded version of the first benefit, but some Missourians could profit from the second point.
However, the 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.
Here’s another way to think about it. With Missouri’s current licensing reciprocity, Missouri consumers have access to professionals in 50 states and Missouri licensees have access to 1 state (Missouri). (Of course, they may have access to other states with reciprocity, but that is not controlled by Missouri lawmakers.) If Missouri were to enter the Audiology and Speech-Pathology Interstate Compact, it seems that consumers seeking audiology or speech pathology services would have access to professionals from only 16 states (the 15 in the compact plus Missouri), and Missouri licensees would have access to customers in 16 states. While this change gives a small benefit to licensees, Missouri consumers lose out.
Entering this compact with the current licensing statute in place would be a bad idea. Missourians benefit from reciprocity in many ways—reciprocity creates more options for various services, breeds more competition which lowers prices, and encourages businesses and entrepreneurs to move to Missouri, which makes the Show-Me State more prosperous. Because of this, entering a compact would be a step backward for regulatory policy in Missouri.