April 26, 2012

Maine Voices: Rule changes designed to ensure veterans get credit for experience

Many license requirements for some occupations have either been modified or eliminated.


With the 125th Legislature drawing to a close, Maine people should be pleased by many of its accomplishments.

As commissioner of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (DPFR), I want to highlight several law changes that will reduce regulation, streamline programs, encourage economic activity and assist Maine veterans.

Gov. Paul LePage has made it a priority to help Maine's veterans, encouraging state agencies to provide assistance to those who served our state and nation in the military.

An important piece of legislation promoted by the governor during the 125th Legislature will ensure that veterans are given full credit for relevant military training and experience when they apply for an occupational license.

The Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation at DPFR issues licenses in dozens of professions.

The office has already taken steps to make sure the expertise of Maine veterans is recognized and valued when they apply for a license.

More generally, the department has been advocating for new laws that will reduce the regulation of various occupations or lead to the implementation of license enhancements.

Gov. LePage and the department worked with members of the Legislature, both Republicans and Democrats, to completely eliminate regulation in some cases, to ease licensing requirements in other cases and to enhance public safety by making confidential substance abuse services available for licensees in more health care professions.

The governor and Legislature took meaningful action during the 125th session to reduce or improve the regulation of several occupations. 

These changes will benefit licensees, the public and a number of Maine businesses.

More work remains, but already we have:

Ended license requirements for electrical companies: Maine law was changed to eliminate the requirement that electrical companies obtain a license. 

No compelling reasons could be identified for maintaining this requirement.

Exempted simple electrical work: Another change exempts persons performing "incidental" electrical repairs in homes from licensing requirements. 

Incidental electrical work is defined as simple projects limited to light fixtures and switches that do not require electrical installation calculations. 

Created a limited barbering license: The Department created a limited barbering license for individuals who wish to practice as a barber, but who don't want to offer certain chemical services.

This should make it easier for people to enter the barbering profession, while still being well-trained and tested in the services they'll provide.

Simplified licensing for certain veterinarians: This new law will enable veterinarians licensed in other states or Canada, who meet certain requirements, to more easily obtain a Maine license. 

It may help to expand veterinary care in underserved areas of the state.

Supported podiatrists and veterinarians: A fifth law change authorizes the Board of Licensure of Podiatric Medicine and the State Board of Veterinary Medicine to establish a podiatrist health program and a veterinarian health program. 

These will be similar to programs already in place to help other health care providers with substance abuse issues.

Health programs of this kind have served licensees, their employers and the public very well.

Worked to provide health insurance premium reduction for Maine's smallest businesses: A new law will offer health insurance premium relief to "micro-businesses" of less than five employees.

The department and the LePage administration will continue to explore ways to reduce regulation, streamline programs, reduce costs and support Maine businesses -- while also continuing to safeguard public health and safety.

These are priorities for the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

Anyone with questions regarding the reforms outlined in this column, or ideas for additional improvements to licensing laws and procedures, is encouraged to contact the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation. 

The Office can be reached by calling (207) 624-8603 (TTY: 888-577-6690).

Online information is available at www.maine.gov/pfr. The Department of Professional and Financial Regulation has taken steps to make sure the expertise of Maine veterans is recognized and valued.

Anne L. Head is commissioner of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

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