Institute for Justice Arizona Engineer Licensing Lawsuit

Institute for Justice client Greg Mills at work.

(The Center Square) – The Arizona House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation that would allow more civilians not involved with a regulated profession to sit on the board that governs it.

Proponents say it will serve as a check on these government bodies becoming self-serving obstacles for more competitive services but others warn the change could be putting Arizonans in danger due to a lack of institutional knowledge. 

Should Senate Bill 1274 be enacted, non-medical licensing boards, specifically the state's Board of Technical Registration, Board of Barbers, Board of Cosmetology, Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers and the Board of Massage Therapy would allow for non-industry members. The governor would remain in charge of appointments.

Democrats oppose the bill, saying the removal of professional engineers from the Board of Technical Registration could result in structural disasters.

“The United States and other developed countries infrequently have structural collapses, dangerous roads, dangerous infrastructure, and products precisely because here, in Arizona and the United States, we have high-quality engineers performing these designs,” Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, said. 

Rep. Kelly Butler, D-Scottsdale, said the changes would gut the technical expertise of these boards.

“Specifically to the Board of Technical Registration, it is architects, it is engineers, they are highly trained, highly qualified technical people,” she said. “You need to know that they know what they’re doing.”

House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, responded that removing the professional requirements wouldn’t result in lower quality professionals, but rather a more rounded board overseeing their licensing process.

Supporters say the bill is merely a codification of best practices primarily suggested by former President Barack Obama. 

“What this does is makes sure that the public, for whom all of this regulation is created in the first place, has the ability to check the worst impulses of people who are essentially industry insiders,” said Paul Avelar, managing attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Arizona office.

Avelar, who is suing the Board of Technical Registration, listed examples of practices by some of the boards that didn’t necessarily make consumers safer, rather increased the regulated industry’s profits. 

2015 U.S. Supreme Court case in North Carolina is a typical example, Avelar said. The dental board there restricted the selling of over-the-counter teeth whitening to dentists.  

“They did that not because there was any public health or safety reason for doing it,” he said. “They did it because dentists were complaining that non-dentists were undercutting their prices and they were losing business.”

The nation’s high court ruled that they violated antitrust laws.

The bill was sent to the Senate Thursday. 


Managing Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a managing editor for The Center Square covering the western United States. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.