Vermont’s sunrise law requires some of the most detailed inquiries into occupational harms, proposed regulations’ costs and least restrictive regulations of any state. In line with the law, the Vermont sunrise reports in our dataset are generally rigorous.
Vermont enacted its sunrise law, which covers both health and non-health occupations, in 1977, making it one of the nation’s oldest. The law’s preamble expressly acknowledges the importance of preserving open occupational entry: “The General Assembly believes that all individuals should be permitted to enter into a profession or occupation unless there is a demonstrated need for the State to protect the interests of the public by restricting entry into the profession or occupation.”
Vermont’s sunrise process puts the onus on proponents to demonstrate the need for new regulation. 2
Administrative regulations indicate sunrise review is initiated when regulation proponents file an application with the state’s Office of Professional Regulation, an executive agency. Most requests for regulation—88%—originated with industry insiders. There is no application fee.
OPR has at least four months to review applications and produce its report, called a preliminary assessment, depending on when applications are submitted. OPR can decline to review an application if the proposed regulation would affect fewer than 250 individuals or require an unwarranted expenditure of state resources. OPR can also decline repeat requests unless they provide new information. Only Colorado’s sunrise law has a similar provision.
Vermont’s sunrise law states that an occupation should be regulated only when three criteria are met: (1) “the unregulated practice of the profession or occupation can clearly harm or endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the public, and the potential for the harm is recognizable and not remote,” which is a moderate standard; (2) “the public can reasonably be expected to benefit from an assurance of initial and continuing professional ability”; and (3) “the public cannot be effectively protected by other means.”
To determine whether a regulatory proposal meets these criteria, OPR must review the application and hold a public meeting. Among other factors, OPR may consider, if any, “specific examples of the harm or threat identified” and previous efforts to mitigate such harms; how regulation “will result in reduction or elimination of the harms or threats identified”; and why alternatives “would not be adequate to protect the public interest.” It may also consider “the extent to which regulation might harm the public” by, for example, “restrict[ing] entry into the profession or occupation.” OPR is not required to recommend the least restrictive regulation.
After OPR submits its report, the General Assembly is supposed to consider the proposal. If it finds that new regulation is necessary, it must enact the least restrictive measure consistent with the public interest. To this end, the law provides a list of regulatory alternatives to licensure, ranging from strengthened civil remedies and criminal sanctions to business or facility regulations to registration to certification. It also describes situations in which each would be appropriate. Of course, the sunrise law cannot pre-empt legislative decisions, so these provisions are nonbinding.
Vermont’s strong sunrise law requires careful consideration of occupational harms, the costs of proposed regulations, and least restrictive regulations. And in fact, Vermont’s sunrise reports are rigorous, generally using independent research and analysis to understand occupations and the need, or lack thereof, for regulation. Nevertheless, the state’s reviews tend to recommend licensure more often than states with similarly strong laws or reports.
Licensure Was Frequently Sought and Enacted Despite Few Licensure Recommendations
Summary of Vermont’s Sunrise Reviews, 1999–2017
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.
Occupations Licensed Without Supporting Recommendations
Dental Hygienists, Mid Level
Speech Language Pathologists
*Multiple recommendations against licensure.
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