Pennsylvania House Bill 1357 is presently before the Professional Licensure Committee in the House of Representatives. The legislation, which is scheduled for a committee hearing next month, would impose a state wide licensure system on the plumbing trades in Pennsylvania if passed.
As a general matter, the aim of the bill is to create a standardized set of criteria for performing plumbing work throughout the Commonwealth. Proponents of the legislation maintain it will ensure that plumbers know what they are doing and provide assurances to consumers that the plumbers they hire are properly trained and will perform the work safely. Many also support the bill because it potentially creates an opportunity to establish reciprocity with other states on the issue. This should, in theory, make it easier to work in neighboring states who have licensing requirements.
The bill is not without its problems or detractors either though. Large cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Allentown have often enjoyed some independence from certain state wide requirements imposed on the construction industry. In some instances they can have a separate set of rules; but in many instances, these large municipalities can impose more strict rules over and above those created on a state wide level. This bill lacks clarity on how these “exceptions” might apply in this case if at all. Opponents of the current legislation also maintain that if there are exceptions it will deprive the bill of one of its major goals of creating one standard for everyone. This could be particularly problematic in the area of fees charged for licenses.
The bill also imposes fees on plumbers at all levels to maintain the license and fails to set an objective standard for obtaining the license or achieving reciprocity. These last two tasks are assigned to the administrative agencies of state government. Extra fees are a problem for those trying to survive in an already expensive industry. And leaving the standards to obtain the license or gain reciprocity to an administrative body opens the process up to political pressure and manipulation that many fear will be used to curry favor with politically active groups of all kinds. For example, open shop contractors contend that leaving an administrative body to impose training criteria similar to that inserted in previously proposed laws would open the process up to narrow rules that favor union apprenticeship programs.
Because all the parties involved in the debate seem invested in a state wide licensure system, it is likely to pass at some point. Many states already have licensure programs for specific construction trades, and they work in many instances. This also bodes well for those who support the process. The debate, as always, centers on the implementation details. More specifically, the question is who gets to set the criteria to obtain the license?
We will continue to follow the bill and update you as more news becomes available.