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State Wide Electrical Licensure Bill In The Works Again In Pennsylvania

4/9/2014 | Construction Blog

The introduction of licensure bills in the Pennsylvania state legislature has become quite a regular occurrence over the last 10 years. The efforts have included attempts to establish licensing requirements for electricians, plumbers, crane operators, and a number of other trades. A good deal of debate remains about the idea generally.

The most recent bill to gather some steam is one which would create a state wide licensure requirement for electricians.  House Bill 1585 was introduced in 2013 and is presently before the Professional Licensure Committee. It is unclear whether it will get out of committee in 2014 given that it is an election year, but the bill is worth tracking.

An electrician working on an electrical breaker panel.  Model is an actual electrician - all work is being performed according to industry codes and safety standards.

Those proposing the legislation indicate that its purpose is to promote safety in the electrical contracting industry. To accomplish that end, the new law would create a state wide licensure requirement that would supplant all other electrical licenses in existence. The law would also create a state licensure board that would be composed of members of the public, an electrical inspector, and 8 appointed members from with an even mix from the union and non-union sector.

The licensure board would establish certain educational and experience requirements, as well as create an application process. A testing protocol would also be put in place. To be eligible for the license contractors would have to meet all of those requirements, have “good moral character”, and be at least 22.

The bill, as written, presents some problems that the legislature should address though. To begin, one must ask whether the legislation is necessary to achieve the stated goal. The inspection requirements already in existence for electrical work are designed to ensure work is done safely. At nearly 30 pages, the bill is also too complicated and may serve as a barrier to entry in the electrical contracting business. Next, the training requirements in the legislation are subject to abuse and should be more clearly defined. This, along with underlying apprenticeship ratio issues, will be a source of tension between union and non-union shops. The law also needlessly leaves too much for regulatory bodies to settle and places personal liability on company owners.

The core concept of licensure of electrical contractors – to be sure work is done safely and the public can be sure it is getting a competent contractor – is an admirable concept. But this bill unnecessarily complicates the issue and begs the question of whether the stated intention is the real purpose of the legislation.