Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (Commonwealth Media Services)
Hoping to remove red tape for professionals in Pennsylvania, Gov. Josh Shapiro has launched a review to make recommendations to improve the state’s professional licensure process by setting standard response times and implementing accountability measures for when agencies fail to meet those deadlines.
Shapiro, a Democrat, signed an executive order on Tuesday directing all state agencies, boards, and commissioners to make a catalog of the licenses, certificates, and permits they issue.
The list, which must be sent to the governor’s office in 90 days, should also include the statutory authority governing the time they must process applications and the fees charged. The information will help set new expectations and timelines for the licensure process, Shapiro said during a public signing ceremony.
And if an agency fails to respond to an applicant on time, it must issue a refund for the application fee.
“They will get their money back,” Shapiro said. “State government’s top priority should be serving the good people of our commonwealth, and we are putting our money where our mouth is.”
The executive order also directs the governor’s office to review the existing digital services used by Pennsylvanians to apply for licenses, certificates, and permits, ultimately working to modernize the platforms used by professionals such as teachers, nurses, stylists, barbers, accountants, funeral directors, veterinarians, and car dealers.
West Philadelphia-based barber Darryl Thomas said that with the executive order, Shapiro is making good on a campaign promise, saying people in power should be able to recognize issues and resolve them. He added that the administration is helping give business owners and professionals the tools to succeed and provide for their families by setting clear guidelines.
Elizabeth Strong, an Allentown-based cosmetologist and business owner, described the challenges she faced while relocating her salon in 2014, outlining how delays and lost files left her career “hanging in the balance.”
With help from her state representative, she paid her application fee and scheduled an inspection, successfully opening at her new location.
“But these things shouldn’t happen,” she said. “These are big dreams. These are people’s lives on the lines where. And we’re kind of at the mercy of our state licensing.”
The executive order does not address staffing shortages; however, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals President Maureen May noted that it could mitigate licensing hurdles for graduates who have accepted a job upon graduation but have to wait to receive their license from the state.
“It’s certainly an important step in the right direction,” May said.
Acting Secretary of State Al Schmidt said the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs administers 29 boards and commissions that issued more than 130 different licenses to professionals and facilities in Pennsylvania. Each year, he said, the bureau processes more than 80,000 new license applications and more than 375,000 license renewals.
“This administration is making the people of Pennsylvania and customer service our top priority,” Schmidt said. “People shouldn’t have to suffer through long wait times to put their skills and knowledge to good use. Together, with the governor’s office, we will work to ensure Pennsylvanians can get to work in a timely fashion without having red tape hold them back.”
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