Occupational Licensing Committee Update for Quarter 4 of 2020

 By Nicholas Dowgul

Each year occupational licensing boards and state agencies are required to submit reports to North Carolina governmental committees and offices. There have been some recent changes to the time frame for some reports as well as the addition of another report. Due to COVID-19, we have seen a direct impact on fingerprint requirements for licensing boards, as well as an amendment to a portion of one Board’s general statute, which allows for greater Board flexibility during disasters and emergencies.

On September 4, 2020, the N.C. legislature passed House Bill 1105/Session Law 2020-7. In the Bill was an extension of the deadline for state agencies to make an interim and final report to the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee, the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, and the Office of State Budget and Management. The reports shall outline what specific efforts the agencies have made to exercise regulatory flexibility during the Coronavirus Emergency. Specifically, the legislature is wanting to know what changes state agencies (boards are defined as agencies under this bill) have made and how they have protected the well-being of N.C. citizens and businesses. The new deadline for state agencies to make those reports to the aforementioned government entities is December 1, 2020.

There were also some additions to NCGS 93B-2 made by House Bill 1053. Those additions require each occupational licensing board and state agency licensing board to submit an annual report concerning the number of military members and spouses of military members who applied for an occupational license, how many individuals were granted a license, denied a license, and a summary of the reasons for denial of said license. The reports under 93B-2 shall be filed electronically with the Secretary of State, Attorney General, and the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee no later than October 31, 2021.

Due to the pause in fingerprinting at county agencies this year, there is a backlog of fingerprint requests throughout the state. As a result, some licensing boards have issued professional licenses without requiring fingerprinting for background checks from applicants. Boards should make a note of every applicant who did not submit a fingerprint card for background check purposes prior to being issued a professional license. Boards should still require those licensees to submit fingerprint cards for background checks by a set deadline as background checks are still required per statute.

One occupational licensing board that took the initiative during COVID-19 to have legislation enacted giving them more flexibility during disasters and emergencies is the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners. Session bill 2020-3/Senate Bill 704 included the “Dental Board Flexibility During Disasters and Emergencies Section” under Article 2 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes. This amended reads as follows: “§ 90-28.5. Disasters and emergencies. If the Governor declares a state of emergency or a county or municipality enacts ordinances under G.S. 153A-121, 160A-174, 166A-19.31, or Article 22 of Chapter 130A of the General Statutes, the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners may waive the requirements of this Article and Article 16 of this Chapter to permit the provision of dental and dental hygiene services to the public during the state of emergency.” One can expect that other licensing boards may follow suit in the future or a piece of legislation may be amended soon that allows greater flexibility for all occupational licensing boards in the event of disasters and emergencies