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From medics to makeup artists: the state’s onerous licensing requirements
ATLANTA — Lawmakers on Tuesday heard from representatives of nurses, land surveyors, soil scientists, military medics, beauticians and other professionals about bureaucratic hurdles they face in getting occupational licenses in Georgia. All offered legislative suggestions to make the process easier, faster, and less expensive.
The third meeting of the Senate Occupational Licensing study committee began with a presentation from Shea Ross-Smith, director of government relations for Kaiser Permanente, which is hiring former military medics and veterans with health care experience to work in its Virginia clinics.
A 2017 Virginia law allows veterans with qualifying military experience to continue to practice without having to go through the state’s civilian education and licensing process.
Kaiser’s area director in Virginia, Jamaal Lofton, said the Military Medics and Corpsmen Program removes barriers to employment for veterans transitioning out of the military. Such a program, he said, could greatly benefit Georgia, one of the top five states per capita with members serving in the military, and which also has a severe health care workforce shortage.
Land surveyors are also in short supply in Georgia, in part because it takes seven or eight years to become licensed, said Trenton Turk, a land surveyor and member of the Surveying and Mapping Society of Georgia.
The decline in new surveyors, who determine property lines for homes and commercial projects, is causing delays in real estate closings, development and infrastructure projects, and slowing down economic development, Turk said.
The society wants to shave at least two years off the four years of “focused experience” currently mandated for surveyors in the state by creating a two-year apprenticeship program. It also wants to let aspiring surveyors take the difficult national surveyors exam right after completing their education, instead of waiting for four years, as current Georgia law mandates. The would-be surveyors, Turk said, are “having to dig the books back out,” and, he noted, the pass rate for the test currently “is not that great.”
Committee Chair Larry Walker III, R-Perry, said “it’s refreshing” that surveyors “want to streamline their licensing process and lower barriers. We haven’t heard that from other industries — a lot of protectionism going on there,” he said.
Leaders of two state nursing groups want the committee to consider beefing up staff at the Georgia Board of Nursing, which has eight staff members supporting 170,000 licensed nurses, and is slow in processing licensure applications, said Elizabeth Bolton-Harris, an acute care nurse practitioner who is also director of legislation and public policy at the Georgia Nurses Association.
Bolton-Harris said the state could use some of the nearly $12 million generated in nursing licensure fees, which now goes to the state’s general fund, to hire a licensing analyst at $44,000, a data analyst at $45,000 and other staff to help speed up review of backlogged applications.
To increase health care access across the state, Robin Pingeton, a nurse practitioner and government relations chair of the Georgia Nursing Leadership Coalition, asked lawmakers to consider creating a less restrictive licensure process for advanced practice registered nurses, who now have to wait six to eight months for their credentials.
Meagan Forbes, director of legislation for the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest firm, presented the institute's recent study of occupational licensing requirements among 102 lower-income occupations across the U.S., including barbers, landscaping contractors, and security alarm installers. The study found Georgia ranks 12th in licensing burdens, including state-mandated education and training.
Most burdensome is the state’s beauty industry, where cosmetologists are required to receive 1,500 hours of training, which is ten times more training than emergency medical technicians, Forbes said.
She introduced Diamond Cherry, 27, a Georgia makeup artist who told the committee that she’d like to pursue a license, which would increase her earning power, but that she can’t afford to spend that much time in training, which “interferes with trying to make a livelihood.”
Cherry told State Affairs that it doesn’t take the 1,000 hours of training required for makeup artists in Georgia “to do what I do safely and well. It’s more about technique and artistry.” She said she could make more than $100 an hour if she was licensed, versus the $16.50 an hour she makes now working as a sales associate at a department store cosmetics counter. Upon adjourning the meeting, Walker asked senators to come back to the final meeting on Nov. 28 or 29 with recommendations for policy and legislative changes to occupational licensing, including “low-hanging fruit like makeup artists, and some more aggressive things, too — even though the hard stuff is hard to get through” the Legislature, he said.
Walker told State Affairs that among the bolder moves he’d like legislators to pursue is “a 30-day shot clock on getting a military spouse or someone who’s exiting the military their license.”
He said one reason some licensing boards say they can’t act that fast is because criminal background checks take longer than that. Walker said he’d be in favor of allowing an applicant to “do a sworn affidavit that they don’t have a felony or criminal record that would prohibit them from being eligible,” and issue them a provisional license until the background check is done, a practice happening in several other states.
Header photo: Senators on the occupational licensing study committee heard testimony from nurses, land surveyors and other skilled professionals on Oct. 31, 2023 at the Georgia Capitol. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)
A study committee of Georgia senators took a decisive step Tuesday toward ending a longstanding and contentious law that regulates how and where new medical facilities are located in the state.
The committee’s decision centers on the 44-year-old Certificate of Need law. It was created to control health care costs and cut down on duplication of services and unnecessary expansions. It determines when, where and if hospitals need to be built. Opponents have said the law prevents competition and enables big hospitals to have a monopoly, often shutting out small and private medical outlets.
On Tuesday, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform effectively said the law needs to be repealed. The committee approved, in a 6-2 vote, nine recommendations.
“Based upon the testimony, research presented, and information received, the Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform has found that the problem Georgia’s CON law was intended to combat no longer exists,” the report said.
However, the head of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals said Tuesday that repealing the law would be a bad idea.
“It would have a devastating financial impact on hospitals and the quality and access to health care,” Monty Veazey, the alliance’s chief executive, told State Affairs.
Veazey said he has not seen the recommendations yet but his organization has sent its own set of recommendations to the senate and house study committees.
“We believe that the certificate of need really does need some modernization and we look forward to working with the committee to work through those recommendations and see if we can reach a compromise position during the upcoming legislative session,” Veazey said. “We still want to see what the House committee recommends before moving forward.”
Here’s what the senate study committee recommends, according to a draft:
- Repeal CON requirements for obstetrics services, neonatal intensive care, birth centers and all services related to maternal and neonatal care across Georgia.
- End requirements for hospital-based CON on Jan. 1, 2025.
- Reform CON laws to eliminate CON review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds that serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
- Repeal all cost expenditure triggers for CON.
- All medical and surgery specialties should be considered a single specialty, including cardiology and general surgery.
- Multi-specialty centers should be allowed, particularly in rural areas.
- Remove CON for hospital bed expansion.
- Revise freestanding emergency department requirements such that they must be within 35 miles of an affiliated hospital.
- Remove CON for research centers.
The committee will present its recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.
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ATLANTA — The first step in the 2023 electoral redistricting process occurred Monday when Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, released a draft proposal of new Senate district maps.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia to redraw its state House, Senate and congressional district maps, adopted in 2021 by a majority-Republican-led Legislature, after finding they violated the Votings Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters. The Georgia General Assembly is charged with submitting new maps to comply with Jones’ order by Dec. 8, and will be meeting in an eight-day special legislative session to do so, starting on Wednesday.
The proposed Senate maps would create two Black-majority voting districts while eliminating two white majority districts in metro Atlanta now represented by Democrats. The districts of state Sen. Elena Parent, chair of the Senate Democratic caucus, and Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves, a freshman, would become majority-Black if the redrawn maps make it through the redistricting process, a change that could invite considerably more primary challenges.
The proposed maps do not significantly alter the district lines for Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, and Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, whose districts Jones ruled did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. It will be up to Jones to decide if the new maps pass muster.
As it stands, the proposed Senate map will leave Republicans with a 33-23 advantage in the Senate.
On Wednesday legislators will plunge into their redistricting work during a special session at the Capitol. In addition to the state Senate maps, lawmakers must also redraw electoral maps to create Black majorities in one additional congressional district in west-metro Atlanta, and in five additional state House districts in Atlanta and the Macon-Bibb County area.
The proposed Senate maps (and all proposed maps to be submitted by legislators) are available on the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office’s website. Written comments can be submitted (and viewed) by the public through the portal available on the Georgia General Assembly website. Most of the reapportionment and redistricting committee’s hearings are open to the public; the daily legislative schedule is available here.
“The committee encourages public participation and values the input of the community in this vital democratic process,” Echols said in a statement released on Monday.
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