Sunrise review is a process by which states evaluate the need for new occupational regulations, particularly new regulations of personal qualifications such as licensing, state certification and mandatory registration. Some states also review changes to existing regulations, such as amendments to scope of practice laws that define the tasks practitioners may perform, but this report looks only at reviews of new regulations. 1

Sunrise review is intended to help legislators determine whether proposed regulations are necessary to protect the public. Legislators seldom have time to deeply research the bills that come before them; as a result, they often rely on information from organizations and individuals with a vested interest in seeing the legislation pass. With sunrise review, the idea is to give legislators a tool for assessing such information. Even if  sunrise reviews cannot overcome special interests’ influence, the hope is that they can at least counter balance it  with independent research. 2

Sunrise review should not be confused with similarly named sunset review, though both arose around the same time and with a similar purpose. Rather than reviewing occupational regulations before they become law, sunset review examines existing regulations and related government bodies, such as licensing laws and boards, to determine whether they are still (or were ever) necessary. 3 The advantage of sunrise review over sunset is that it can, in theory, help keep unnecessary regulations off the books in the first place.

States’ sunrise review processes tend to look similar, though they vary in the particulars. In general, what happens is this: When a new occupational regulation is proposed, a government agency or committee is tasked with reviewing it. The reviewer typically evaluates any harms from unregulated practice and weighs the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation. Often, the reviewer considers whether the public could be protected from any harms in another, less restrictive way. To this end, many sunrise laws provide lists of the different regulatory options available to legislators. These lists are sometimes similar to Figure 1, which lists both regulatory and non-regulatory options from least to most restrictive.

Figure 1: The Inverted Pyramid: A Hierarchy of Alternatives to Licensing

The reviewer also typically makes a recommendation about whether the proposed regulation, or any reg ulation, is warranted. The reviewer usually—though not always—puts this information into a written report for consultation by the legislature and interested members of the public. This study considers only written reports because they often provide a rich record of the types of regulations sought and by whom, as well as details about what reviewers recommended.

For this study, we began by identifying states with sunrise laws. In all, we found 22. But we excluded three (Arkansas, Idaho and Ohio) because they enacted their laws after our study period, which ended in 2017, 4 and four (California, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas) because they have never regularly produced sunrise reports. 5 The remaining 15 states in this study are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. But, as indicated in Table 1, only 10 of these still regularly produce sunrise reports. Despite never formally repealing their sunrise laws, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, South Carolina and Utah rarely issue written reports. 6 From the 15 states, we gathered the largest ever collection of sunrise reports—397. They cover the 33 years from 1985 to 2017.

Table 1: State Sunrise Laws in This Study

StateYear EnactedYears Covered by ReportsReports
Arizona (health)19851986–201726
Kansas (health)19802011–20153
Minnesota* (health)19762002–20096
Nebraska (health)19851986–201729
South Carolina*19881989–19977
VirginiaHealth: 1977
Non-health: 1979
1987–2017Health: 24
Non-health: 16
WashingtonHealth: 1983
Non-health: 1987
1988–2016Health: 32
Non-health: 13
West Virginia19981999–201717

Note: * = does not regularly produce reports. Two states, Virginia and Washington, have separate sunrise laws for health and non-health occupations. Kansas’ and Nebraska’s sunrise laws cover only health occupations. In 2014, Arizona amended its law to also review non-health occupations. But by the time we stopped collecting reports, the state had not yet produced any reports covering such occupations. In addition, Minnesota’s law also covers non-health occupations, though the law specifically contemplates reports for health occupations only; we have found no reports covering non-health occupations.