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January 05. 2012 7:58PM

Bill to make occupational licenses optional goes down

CONCORD — An attempt to make state licensing optional for about 15 occupations failed in the House Thursday.

Lawmakers voted 214-116 to kill House Bill 446, which would have included would make licenses optional for a number of professions in the state including hairdressers and aestheticians, as well as landscape architects, court reporters, athletic trainers, recreational therapists, family mediators, hunting and fishing guides, athlete agents, massage therapists, reflexologists, structural integrators and Asian bodywork therapists, and hawkers, peddlers and itinerant vendors.

The licensing boards would remain in place under the bill.

The bill was opposed by all of the professional organizations affected, who said the bill would put them at a disadvantage to unlicensed competitors who would incur none of the costs, training or requirements they have to meet to obtain their licenses.

But supporters of deregulating the industries said a license does not guarantee competence or safety, that only proper training, experience and professional oversight will do that.

They said a consumer has a right to decide to use an unlicensed person and the state has no business interfering.

One of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Spec Bowers, R-Sunapee, said “because someone is licensed does not mean they are any good.”

He said most studies indicate people cannot tell the difference between licensed and unlicensed practitioners.

“Most licensing bills are there at the request of the trade not so much to protect the public — which they don't do very well — but to protect the trades from competition,” Bowers said.

He said his hair dresser fired him when she learned he introduced the bill. “She said ‘if it passes, someone can open next door to me and put me out of business.'” Bowers said.

But others said the real issue is public safety and proper training.

Rep. Peter Schmidt D-Dover, said if a student is seriously injured at an athletic event, the parents will want to make sure the athletic trainer attending their child is a competent as possible.

“This bill sets up this whole shadowy enterprise,” Schmidt said. “We need to protect small businesses and the licensure process put in place by previous Republican legislatures. If we no longer require licenses, we'll be inviting those de-licensed elsewhere to come to New Hampshire.

-- The House failed to garner enough support for CACR 8 to send the bill to the Senate. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow state tax money to flow to religious schools, although it could not be used for religious education.

The proposal needed a three-fifth vote or 239 House members to pass, but failed on a 219-127 vote.

The bill was sent back to committee on a 246-103 vote, after an attempt to table the bill failed on a 234-114 vote.

-- The House voted to increase the penalty for circumventing an alcohol ignition device to not less than $500 and to extend the device's use for two years for the violator.

HB 486 passed on a 259-48 vote.

-- The House sent for more study HB 212, which concerned conflict of interest for executive branch members, and HB 356, which would require voters to show a photo ID before voting. Another bill on photo ID is expected to be introduced in the Senate.

-- The House also recommitted CACR 11 which would appoint judges for five-year terms instead of life-time appointments to the Judiciary Committee.

The bill failed to reach the three-fifth majority needed to act on it. The committee had proposed the bill be killed.


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