By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Gilbert lawmaker Warren Petersen was all smiles last Wednesday as a first-of-its-kind bill he sponsored was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey.
Petersen, the House Majority Leader, praised Ducey for signing HB 2569 into law.
It makes Arizona the first state in the nation to grant licensure to individuals who establish residency in Arizona, hold a comparable license in another state and meet certain criteria.
Applicants must be in “good standing” in the state in which they are licensed, pay applicable fees in Arizona to obtain licensure, not have a criminal history and satisfy other standards. The bill received bipartisan support in the legislature.
“I’m grateful to Governor Ducey and my colleagues in the legislature for making Arizona the first state in the country to offer universal occupational licensing recognition,” said Petersen. “By getting government out of the way and letting qualified professionals get right to work, HB 2569 will increase economic opportunity, create jobs and grow Arizona’s economy.”
The governor insisted this is different than his decision to allow Uber to test its driverless cars on Arizona roads – halted after one of them hit and killed a pedestrian.
And he said it’s not the same as another bill he signed allowing Theranos to sell its novel blood tests to Arizona residents, tests that were subsequently found to be inaccurate.
“It’s apples and oranges,” Ducey said.
If nothing else, he said there needs to be some proof that the qualifications of someone with a medical license from another state must meet Arizona’s minimum standards.
And as to other professions, like architects and engineers? Ducey dismissed the concerns as irrelevant.
“I think you are taking hypothetical examples in terms of the obstacles that are in front of people that are moving to Arizona and can’t find work,” the governor said.
He also brushed aside a question of whether allowing anyone with any license from any other state to practice in Arizona will be bad for those already here, potentially driving down wages as there are more people offering the same services.
“Not only is our GDP growing but so are our wages,” Ducey said. “We have more jobs available than people to fill them.”
Left unsaid is that the state’s jobless rate is about a full point higher than the national figure.
For Ducey and supporters, the argument is that there is no need for Arizona to require new residents to prove to regulators here they can do their jobs.
“We know that whether you make your living as a plumber, a barber, a nurse or anything else, you don’t lose your skills simply because you pack up a U-Haul truck and make the decision to move to Arizona,” he said.
Some states, including Arizona, already have reciprocity agreements for certain professions: Arizona will honor another state’s licensing if that state does the same for those with Arizona licenses. But this is believed to be the first situation in the nation where a state has unilaterally agreed to allow those licensed in other states to practice here, with no requirement for like treatment of Arizonans.
Critics have argued this move will mean that Arizona has to accept whatever other states believe is acceptable to get licensed there, a move they said will effectively make the standards in Arizona the lowest in the nation.
Ducey has been at the forefront of deregulatory efforts.
In 2015 he inked his approval to legislation to make it easier for companies to market blood-test services to Arizona consumers.
That law, sought by Theranos, removed all the limits on the kinds of blood, urine and other tests that patients can order themselves. In a ceremony at the company’s Scottsdale offices, the governor said he was “proud to sign’’ legislation for “reducing burdensome barriers and red tape.”
As it turned out, the company later admitted that the tests it was offering – involving just a small sample of blood – were not always accurate. More than one out of every 10 of the test results given to Arizonans by the company were “ultimately voided or corrected.”
The company agreed to refund more than $4.6 million to Arizonans who got the tests and may have been defrauded.
A year later, Ducey welcomed Uber to Arizona, allowing the firm to test its self-driving vehicles on Arizona roads. That occurred even before the state ever adopted rules for their use.
That came after Uber rejected the demand of California transportation officials that these vehicles be specially licensed and registered as test vehicles. Ducey, in making the announcement, said the move shows that Arizona is friendlier for businesses than its neighbor to the west.
But the governor on that day sidestepped a question of whether he should be held personally responsible if someone is injured or killed in Arizona as a result of problems with one of those vehicles.
Ducey suspended the ability of Uber to continue testing last year in the wake of an accident that showed an Uber test vehicle, with someone behind the wheel but not paying attention, striking and killing a pedestrian in Tempe.
The governor’s decision also came a day after the New York Times reported that Uber’s efforts to put autonomous vehicles on the road was having problems even before the accident in Tempe.