The Utah sunrise reports in our dataset are lacking in independent research and meaningful analysis despite a law that, on its face, might be expected to produce rigorous reports. They are also very few. We identified only two reports, covering three reviews, from the state, all from between 2013 and 2015. 2
Utah enacted its sunrise law, which covers both health and non-health occupations, in 1999, making it one of the most recent in our dataset. Sunrise review is initiated when a government representative or a representative of the unregulated occupation files an application proposing regulation; 3
occupational representatives must pay a $500 fee. All three requests in our study came from such industry insiders.
Applications are filed with the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel and are assigned to the Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Committee for review and recommendation. The nine-member OPLRC is composed of six legislators and three members of the public appointed by the Legislature; it is co-chaired by one House member and one Senate member. OPLRC conducts in-person reviews, receiving information from applicants and any other interested party.
Utah’s sunrise law charges applicants with demonstrating a need for new regulation. Among other factors, they must explain why regulation “is necessary to address a compelling state interest in protecting against present, recognizable, and significant harm to the health or safety of the public.” This is among the highest standards of harm in our dataset.
Utah’s law sets out various criteria for the review, including a cost-benefit evaluation that asks whether regulation would negatively impact practitioners or reduce their numbers, impose new economic hardship on the public, or create barriers to service. OPLRC must also determine whether previous or ongoing measures can address the threat of harm, including considering whether the occupation has an established code of ethics, a voluntary certification program or other measures to ensure a minimum quality of service. It is also supposed to ask whether the proposed regulation is narrowly tailored to protect against the specific harm identified.
If OPLRC finds that the proposed regulation is overbroad, it must determine and recommend the least restrictive regulation that would protect the public. However, the Legislature is not required to enact the least restrictive regulation.
OPLRC is supposed to produce an annual report detailing all of its reviews for the year. However, it rarely produces such reports in practice, though this could change if a recent proposal to reform the sunrise law comes to fruition. 4
Moreover, the two reports it has produced are, along with Arizona’s, the nation’s most superficial, merely stating the request, applicant, recommendation and any outcome. One of the two also included meeting minutes as attachments. Based on the reports, it appears OPLRC only scrutinizes requests during committee meetings and rarely, if ever, engages in independent research or analysis.
Licensure Was Frequently Sought but Never Recommended or Enacted
Summary of Utah’s Sunrise Reviews, 2013–2015
Notes: A distinct license is a separate license for an occupation already licensed under another, usually broader, occupational category. A recommendation of no new regulation means just that; a recommendation to maintain or amend license refers to a recommendation to reject new regulations (such as a distinct license) in favor of keeping an existing license, with or without amendments. A legislative outcome of no new regulation means no new regulation of personal qualifications; the legislature may have enacted other regulations. An outcome of broader credential means the legislature opted to sweep the occupation into a broader licensure, certification or registration scheme. Where a state reviewed an occupation more than once, we are counting only the legislative outcome as of 2018.
Sign up to receive IJ's biweekly digital magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking updates about our fight to protect the rights of all Americans.