It just became easier for out-of-state professionals to work here

By ANNMARIE TIMMINS

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 06-29-2023 9:01 AM

When the COVID-19 health crisis hit, New Hampshire was quickly able to allow nearly 60,000 out-of-state physicians to practice in the state by accepting their state’s credentials for licensure here. 

That practice will now apply to all professions licensed in New Hampshire as long as their out-of-state requirements are “substantially similar” to New Hampshire’s. House Bill 594, signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Chris Sununu, will leave it to the state Office of Professional Licensure and Certification to consult with professional boards, commissions, and councils to determine what counts as “substantially similar.” 

Sununu and Lindsey Courtney, the office’s executive director, said the law is intended to address the state’s workforce shortages by making it easier for professionals to work in New Hampshire.

“We’re sitting at 1.9 percent unemployment,” Sununu said. “That is a wonderful thing and a really difficult thing at the same time. … That’s a great opportunity for the citizens, but to really maximize on that you’ve got to be able to move forward on this type of licensure reform.”

Speaking in favor of the bill in April, Rep. Carol McGuire, an Epsom Republican, told a Senate committee that lawmakers tried to encourage boards and commissions to adopt a similar practice several years ago. 

The bill had been championed by free-market conservatives, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.

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“These bills move us closer to Lincoln’s vision of a system that ‘opens the way for all’ to enjoy the fruits of their labor without undue interference from the state,” said Drew Cline, the center’s president, in a statement Wednesday. 

Some licensed professionals have opposed the change, citing concerns that out-of-state licensing requirements won’t meet New Hampshire’s standards. Some have also resisted the effort because it will make it easier for out-of-state professionals to compete with in-state professionals.

However, few registered objections to the bill this year, according to House and Senate records. 

In an interview Wednesday, Courtney said the agency would look at each license individually in order to determine which states have “substantially equivalent” licenses. The OPLC will consult with the licensing boards to determine what standards to set, but will ultimately make final decisions. 

Those reciprocity decisions will ultimately go before lawmakers for review: Each licensing change will need to be approved by the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, a panel of House and Senate lawmakers.  

Given the vast number of individual licenses, that process could be lengthy, Courtney said. OPLC will likely prioritize certain licenses that have the highest demand or need – such as physicians and cosmetologists – and deprioritize others that already are part of regional or national compacts that allow their own reciprocity, she said. 

“I think we’re going to look at it in terms of triage,” she said. 

For cosmetologists, increased reciprocity could have an immediate impact, Courtney said.

“Massachusetts requires 1,000 hours (of training),” she said. “We require 1500. So we see a lot of those issues in terms of cross-border practice that I think we can alleviate.”

Bulletin reporter Ethan DeWitt contributed to this story.

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