Advocacy: The Fight for Certification

Professional certification like the Certified Commissioning Professional (CCP) and the Associate Commissioning Professional (ACP) are used to demonstrate proven credentials. Last Fall, the Building Commissioning Certification Board (BCCB) joined with over 100 associations to support the Professional Certification Coalition (PCC). This coalition was organized by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence and the American Society of Association Executives. It is focused on advancing the best interests of all who rely on certifications, tracking the progress of state-level legislative and regulatory actions that negatively impact the value of professional certifications.

The BCCB is reaching out to BCxA members and BCCB-certified providers who reside within states playing host to the most contentious of these bills, described below.

Right now, the PCC is closely monitoring and acting to ensure that proposed legislation does not:

  1. Bar professionals holding certifications from using the titles “certified”
  2. Restrict private certification organizations’ enforcement of their ethics codes or eligibility requirements
  3. Eliminate existing state regulations that recognize or require private certification
  4. Establish governmental certification programs to supplant or devalue existing private certification programs.

Although listing the 70 different bills being tracked by the PCC today would be impractical, these four are worth mentioning as they directly affect commissioning providers.

  • Iowa H.F. 752: “A bill for an act relating to professional licensing, including by providing for a review of professional licenses and allowing for preapplication qualification reviews, and providing fees.” Calls for an efficiency review committee to recommend repeal of or changes to “professional … certifications and registrations available in the state” or to “convert” licensure requirements to (presumably governmental) certification. We hope this is primarily the result of poor drafting.  This bill appears not move during this session but will be brought up again in 2020.
  • Arkansas H.B. 1527: “To create the red tape reduction sunrise and sunset act of 2019; and to require legislative review of occupational authorizations and occupational entities.” In its current form, H.B. 1527 appears to call for the state to establish its own certification programs, rather than relying on private certifications. Doing so would be a waste of taxpayer money, given that well-established and recognized private voluntary professional certifications already exist. This bill has been signed into law and now the PCC is working to draft amendments.
  • Michigan S.B. 40: Calls for enactment of government certification, limits the definition of public interest to “health and safety,” seeks review and repeal of licensure regulations that are not the least restrictive, and prohibits use of the title “registered” or “certified” unless registered with the state.
  • Pennsylvania H.B. 811: “An Act amending Title 63 (Professions and Occupations (State Licensed)) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes…” Depending on the interpretation of the poorly drafted bill, it either seeks to restrict whether private certification organizations operating in Pennsylvania may consider conviction history or restricts use of the title “certified” to state-issued certifications; may limit ability of licensure boards to enforce practice acts that require current certification.

Compared to governmental regulation, voluntary professional certification: (a) permits the promulgation and use of higher standards by eliminating mistrust and resistance toward governmental regulation; (b) reduces taxpayer costs; (c) offers greater opportunities for flexibility and responsiveness to changing conditions than typically characteristic of the legislative and regulatory process; and (d) draws on volunteers within a field who offer subject matter expertise that government officials often do not possess. That is why the BCCB and the PCC continues to propose amendments to bills that would have harmful effects on the certification community.

Being involved matters. By an engaging a grassroots organization of our members to voice their concerns about these bills we believe we can approach the issues from all angles and more comprehensively protect all participants who delivery quality services within the building industry.

More About Certification Advocacy

Many pieces of legislation being proposed around the country have unintended consequences that could harm consumers or individuals who have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain a professional certification. Some occupational licensing reform bills have defined the terms “certified” and “registered” as titles that only the government can issue and have included provisions barring the use of such titles without state authorization, thereby precluding individuals from marketing themselves as having earned their credentials. Other bills have characterized “certification” as a recognition issued only by the government or have called for state action to offer voluntary certification programs, which, contrary to free-market principles, would position the government as a competitor to private certification programs.

Although occupational licensing reform legislation typically is introduced to achieve admirable goals that promote market competition and employment opportunities. However, some of these bills have included provisions that would be harmful to certified professionals and those they serve. The BCCB and the BCxA, along with our partner the PCC, advocate for legislation that avoids restrictions on voluntary professional certification programs.

The PCC researches and advocate on behalf of its members to prevent consumer choice bills that go too far; it is focused on stemming and counteracting further harmful legislative initiatives. The group’s members are working together to advance the best interests of those who use or rely on professional certification—such as employers, payors, and the public—as well as of individual professionals themselves, who depend on professional certifications to stand out in a highly competitive employment market.

  1. Liz Fischer

    After this blog was published today I received the following email from the PCC.

    Dear PCC Members,

    Earlier today, outgoing Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) signed into law Senate Bill 255, which establishes a statewide policy on occupational regulation and requires the state Legislative Service Commission to issue reports of occupational licensing bills and state regulation of occupations, among many other provisions.

    As we’ve previously reported, the PCC was pleased to work with state legislators and allies on the ground in Columbus to amend key provisions in the bill that were of greatest concern to the Coalition. Most notably, the legislature amended a provision that would have called on the state government to “offer” a governmental certification program in certain circumstances. Because that language would have set up the state as a competitor to voluntary certification programs, the PCC negotiated new language that was included in the version of the bill signed into law today. That provision now states:

    If regulations are intended to protect consumers against asymmetrical information between the seller and buyer, the appropriate state action shall be to offer voluntary certification, unless suitable, privately offered voluntary certification for the relevant occupation is available. As used in this division, “suitable” means widely recognized as reflecting established standards of competency, skill, or knowledge in the field.

    We also worked with allies to persuade the legislature to add a new provision to permit licensure boards to require private certifications as a condition of licensure, in order to address our concerns about the evidentiary presumptions the bill otherwise would pose to recognition of certification in licensure laws. The new provision states:

    Nothing in this chapter is intended to restrict an occupational licensing board from requiring, as a condition of licensure or renewal of licensure, that an individual’s personal qualifications include obtaining or maintaining certification from a private organization that credentials individuals in the relevant occupation.

    Further, we advocated for the inclusion of a safe harbor provision for regulatory recognition of private certification programs. This removes pressure to abolish licensure laws, which would leave private certification organizations responsible for enforcement.

    We are pleased by the outcome in Ohio and hope that the language we were able to include in the bill will serve as a model for other states as they consider changes to their occupational licensing policies going forward. We’re grateful to the many PCC members who activated their members/certificants/allies to advocate for changes to SB 255, as well as to those of you who offered substantive input on proposed amendments. We hope you are all having a great start to 2019 and look forward to continuing to work with you in the new year.

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