Pa. tries a new tactic to help people navigate its professional license system

The acting Department of State secretary says the legacy system doesn’t make it easy for applicants to tell how long the process will take.

  • Katie Meyer/WITF

(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania’s Department of State has a new web page designed to help people apply for professional licenses, which the commonwealth requires for around 130 jobs—from hairdressing to funeral directing to auctioneering.

It’s an issue getting attention recently in the legislature, with the governor and lawmakers putting bipartisan support behind loosening licensing laws.

So far, however, their results haven’t produced big results for applicants.

The commonwealth has 29 licensing boards and commissions that oversee 255 varieties of license and certification. Acting DOS Secretary Kathy Boockvar estimated it covers around 130 different professions.

Boockvar said when she took over the department in January, she was struck by how confusing the licensing process was.

“The more I learned, the more I realized how counterproductive that is for everybody,” she said.

Boockvar said she firmly believes licensing is a challenge in virtually every state. But recent reports highlighted significant problems in Pennsylvania.

Last month, Spotlight PA found it took 37 days to apply and be scheduled for a nursing license exam, more than twice as long as the 17-day estimate advertised by Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.

Bookvar said the length for that part of the process has since improved by about a week. The new website estimates that all three parts of the process should take eight or nine weeks.

Along with nursing, the website so far features timeline estimates for cosmetology, and osteopathic medicine. Boockvar said it’s a work in progress, but that the DOS plans to get all the licensing categories represented eventually.

Last year, Wolf recommended the legislature get rid of the requirements for 13 types of license.

They haven’t so far, though spokespeople for the GOP-controlled House and Senate say they’re still working on that, and other related bills—including ones in the House and Senate that would make it easier for people convicted of crimes who have served their time to apply for and receive licenses.

Lawmakers did pass two initiatives related to licensing recently, and Wolf signed them into law.

One allows Pennsylvania to accept out-of-state licenses, and the other—actually two related bills—allows physicians to delegate some paperwork to assistants.

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