Universal Professional License Reciprocity: New Arizona Law May Be the Start of Something Big

recip 2Qualifying for, obtaining, and maintaining a professional license can be a time-consuming, often frustrating, and burdensome endeavor – even if everything goes as smoothly as possible. Going through the process once is tough enough; the thought of going through it again simply because you want to move and practice your profession in a new state can be enough to make you stay put and lose out on lucrative opportunities.

That is the dilemma faced by contractors, dentists, cosmetologists, and scores of other professionals who must meet a whole new set of licensing requirements -such as education and testing – when they want to work in another state. While some states do have “reciprocity” for a very narrow group of professions and will grant a license based on an out-of-state license, not one state had universal license recognition – until now.

Arizona Passes Nation’s First Universal License Recognition Law

Recently, Arizona became the first state in the nation to pass a law allowing almost all professionals who have valid occupational licenses in other states to obtain a license to work in Arizona without having to meet the state’s education and testing requirements.

Under the new law, Arizona’s licensing boards will recognize out-of-state occupational licenses for people who have been licensed in their profession for at least one year, are in good standing in all states where they are licensed, pay applicable Arizona fees, and meet all residency and background check requirements. Licensed professionals will not be required to duplicate training and other requirements that often needlessly delay or prevent them from starting to work in their new home.

Limited Reciprocity in Illinois

While Arizona is the first state to bring reciprocity and license recognition to broad swaths of professions and occupations, Illinois and several other states do offer reciprocity for specific licenses. The most prominent of these is for real estate brokers. Individuals who hold an active broker’s license in any of the following states can obtain an Illinois license without having to meet the education and testing obligations that other applicants do:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Nebraska
  • Wisconsin

Individuals in a handful of other professions who hold a valid license in another state, including architects and registered nurses, can obtain an Illinois license under a process called “licensure by endorsement” if the licensure process in that other state was substantially equivalent to the process in Illinois at the time of licensure.

Will Other States Follow Suit?

Arizona’s bold move is a boon for any professional wanting to pick up and move to the Grand Canyon State. But what about the rest of the country? To date, no other state has advanced a bill along the lines of Arizona’s. But there is increasing business and political pressure to reduce licensing burdens generally so that qualified professionals can work without being deterred by costs, bureaucracy, and other hurdles. Universal license recognition certainly fits into that philosophy. I expect that other states will take a cautious approach initially, waiting to see how Arizona’s law works in practice before jumping on the universal licensing bandwagon. Nevertheless, this law is a great start.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

JB + IDFPR = More Aggressive Licensing Enforcement?

JBIf it wasn’t already apparent, the recent conclusion of the spring legislative session in Springfield makes it abundantly clear that we’re not in the land of Bruce Rauner anymore. Legalized recreational pot and sports betting, constitutional amendments, tax overhauls, and additional protections for abortion rights – all of these are just the most high-profile changes about to be signed into law by Gov. J. B. Pritzker.

What remains less clear is the impact that the Pritzker administration and unified Democratic control of state government will have on professional licensing and the activities and priorities of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Pritzker has appointed a new IDFPR Secretary and Director of Real Estate, but these leadership decisions don’t provide much insight into how if at all the department will change. However, two recent initiatives and investigations may foretell a more aggressive approach to licensing enforcement and disciplinary action.

Bogus Stem Cell Therapies

Touted as a revolutionary advancement in the treatment of a range of maladies including bone and muscle injuries and pain relief, various iterations of stem cell therapy are being offered by doctors and clinics throughout Illinois. But, according to IDFPR, these treatments – which can cost thousands of dollars each – are unproven and ineffective at best, and a bogus scam at worst.

As reported by CBS Chicago, Dr. Brian Zachariah, IDFPR’s medical coordinator, is taking a decidedly more skeptical approach to stem cell therapy than the department did under the previous administration. “People are being misled, oversold, overcharged on therapies that they are desperate to get,” he is quoted as saying. Dr. Zachariah indicated that the department would ramp up its investigation of patient complaints and increase disciplinary efforts. “We can and will discipline them ranging from a reprimand through fines, suspensions all the way to revoking their license,” he said.

Contractors Preying on Vulnerable Storm Victims

This spring has seen horrific weather throughout the state with torrential rains, tornadoes, and powerful storms wreaking havoc on homes and businesses. When that happens, unscrupulous “storm chasers” often descend on communities looking to exploit those who desperately need repairs because of storm-related damage.

While general contractors, oddly, are not required to be licensed by IDFPR, roofing contractors must have a license. Same goes for insurance adjusters. IDFPR, along with As reported in AdvantageNews, Attorney General Kwame Raoul have indicated that they will aggressively go after unlicensed roofers as well as licensed ones who attempt to scam victims in the wake of extreme weather.

These efforts relating to stem cell therapy and contracting scams may not seem particularly noteworthy; after all, shielding patients and consumers from fraud, misrepresentations, or incompetence is one of the foundational justifications for professional licensing regimes. But it would not be surprising to see Gov. Pritzker’s IDFPR continue with a robust consumer protection approach that will keep a keen eye on any actions by licensed professionals that could be seen as taking advantage of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Spring Ahead With These Important Professional Licensing Updates and Developments

updateHappy Springtime. In the spirit of the season, we’ve put together a potpourri of recent stories, issues, and developments in the world of Illinois professional licensing. As a Chicago professional license defense law firm, we stay abreast of all matters involving the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and that impact licensed professionals throughout the state.

Here is the latest news on the Illinois professional licensing front:

Citizenship Not Required For Professional Licenses Under New Bill

A bill recently introduced in the Illinois Senate would allow otherwise qualified applicants for professional licenses to obtain a license regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

Senate Bill 1166, which passed the full Senate on March 21 and is now pending in the Illinois House of Representatives, provides that, except as otherwise provided by law, no department shall deny an occupational or professional license based solely on the applicant’s citizenship status or immigration status.

The bill’s author, Assistant Majority Leader Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), explained said that she drafted the legislation because, “If anyone in our state wants to contribute by working hard and paying taxes, they should not be denied because of where they were born.”

Extended IDFPR Delays Risks Exodus of Physician Assistants From Illinois

There is always a bit of a wait time between the date IDFPR receives a professional license application and the date it issues one. But every day that passes during that time is a day that the applicant can’t make a living and earn a paycheck working in their chosen profession.

For physician assistants (PAs), who are in one of the fastest-growing and most in-demand professions in the country, the problem with IDFPR delays is particularly acute. PAs are having to sit on their hands for months before they can begin to do their jobs helping patients.

The current processing time for Illinois Physician Assistant applications is 8 to 10 weeks, according to IDFPR, though some applicants report having to wait well-over three months before receiving their license. By way of contrast, the average wait time in neighboring Wisconsin is all of eight days.

The Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA) places the blame on understaffing at IDFPR and its lack of “sufficient funding to tackle the backlog of applications.”

A report earlier this year by NBC 5 Chicago indicated that the difference in wait times is making a difference in where newly-minted PAs are choosing to practice, potentially leaving a shortage of PAs in Illinois at the same time their services are increasingly being utilized by more patients.

Hairstylists Now Need Domestic Violence Training

Hairstylists often become unofficial therapists and sounding boards for their clients. Now, they will officially need training so that they can spot signs of domestic violence or sexual assault and help those clients who are experiencing such trauma.

Under an Illinois law passed in 2016, all 84,000 beauty professionals in the state have until this September to complete the in-person or online classes. Cosmetologists, cosmetology teachers, estheticians, esthetic teachers, hair braiders, hair braiding teachers, nail technicians, and nail technology teachers will not be able to renew their professional licenses unless they do so.

The classes are one-hour and only one session is required, There are 20 approved sponsors across the state providing the needed training, including several locations in Chicago. IDFPR has a full list of all available class locations.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

If you have questions or concerns about your professional license, or you learn that you are the subject of an IDFPR investigation or complain, please contact me immediately. As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I can work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

The Road From IDFPR Complaint to IDFPR Disciplinary Action

complaintAs a lawyer, clients often will ask me whether they can sue this person or that company for a perceived wrong. My answer is always the same: anyone can sue anybody for anything. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they actually have a viable case or that filing a lawsuit is a smart move. It’s just that anyone who has the money for the filing and service fees can walk into a courthouse and file a lawsuit.

Similarly, anyone who feels that a licensed Illinois professional has acted improperly or done them wrong in some way can file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). But just because IDFPR receives a patient, client or customer complaint does not automatically translate into the institution of disciplinary proceedings. There are multiple stops on the road from complaint to action, any one of which can be the end of the matter.

Initial Evaluation

No matter whether an allegation of misconduct comes from a client, competitor, media reports, or other governmental bodies, IDFPR does not institute disciplinary proceedings without first conducting an investigation to determine whether the allegations appear to have merit.

When received by IDFPR, a client/patient/customer complaint will be forwarded to the Department’s Complaint Intake Unit. The claim is then sent to the investigative unit in charge of evaluating allegations for the specific profession at issue. Each licensed profession has its own investigative unit which is supposed to be staffed with individuals who have the knowledge and experience to evaluate the factual allegations in the complaint. They are also supposed to understand the applicable laws, regulations, and standards which determine whether a particular act or omission, if true, would be the basis for disciplinary action.

The lead worker on the case will review the information set forth in the complaint and decide whether to initiate an investigation or close the case. A case may be closed at this early juncture if the substance of the claim, even if true, would not support any disciplinary action. For example, if a patient filed an IDFPR complaint because a doctor did not shake their hand when walking not the exam room, that complaint will wind up in the IDFPR dustbin in short order.

Initial Investigation

However, if the lead worker decides that the allegations merit further inquiry, an IDFPR investigator will be assigned to look into the matter. The investigator can take any number of steps as part of their analysis, including:

  • Reviewing the complaint along with any documents or evidence submitted by the complainant
  • Pulling IDFPR licensure records and records of past investigations and disciplinary actions concerning the licensee.
  • Interviewing the complainant
  • Interviewing any known or potential witnesses
  • Interviewing the licensee who is the subject of the investigation
  • Issuing subpoenas for documents and other evidence

Referral for Prosecution

At the conclusion of their investigation, the assigned investigators will prepare and submit reports describing the steps they took, the evidence and testimony they gathered, and the conclusions they have reached. Upon receipt of the reports, the lead worker will review and decide whether the case should be closed or forwarded to the appropriate Department prosecutions unit for the initiation of disciplinary proceedings or other further action.

For some professions, such as physicians and dentists, IDFPR has case coordinators who are licensed members of those professions. These subject matter experts will review a case and all investigatory reports and decide whether a matter will proceed to the next level.

If you receive notice that an IDFPR complaint has been filed against you, the two most important things you can do are not panic and then call an experienced Chicago professional license defense attorney as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait until that complaint metastasizes into a formal prosecution before taking steps to protect yourself and your career.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

The moment IDFPR contacts you is the moment that you should contact me. I will immediately begin communicating with IDFPR prosecutors and work with you to develop the strategy best suited to achieving the goal of an efficient, cost-effective outcome that avoids any adverse action.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. I look forward to meeting with you.

Vicious Circle: Failure to Pay Student Loans Can Cost You Your Illinois Professional License

loansWhether you are a surgeon, an accountant, a hairstylist, or are in any of the scores of occupations which require a professional license in Illinois, it no doubt took a lot of work and commitment to get where you are. It’s also likely that it cost you some money. If that money was in the form of student loans, know this: all of your hard work can be for naught if you fail to pay those debts. Illinois is one of 20 states that can strip you of your professional license for defaulting on student loan obligations.

Catch-22

A recent story in the New York Times shined a spotlight on this practice, one which theoretically threatens the livelihoods of millions of professionals across the country and thousands in our state. Student loan debt in the U.S. is astronomical, and default rates have been rising. By one estimate, there is currently $1.4 trillion in student loan debt outstanding nationally.

In Illinois, according to a recent report, 61 percent of graduates of four-year public and private colleges and universities from the class of 2016 had educational debt, totaling $29,271, on average. That report doesn’t include debt incurred to attend community colleges or technical and vocational schools.

The rationale behind denying or revoking professional licenses for unpaid student loans is that it will incentivize borrowers to make payments. But taking away someone’s livelihood because they can’t make payments on their student loans sets up a situation that does more harm than good. Punishing someone for an unpaid debt by taking away their ability to pay that debt is a grotesque catch-22.

Some States Are Harsher Than Others

According to the Times, their research “identified at least 8,700 cases in which licenses were taken away or put at risk of suspension in recent years, although that tally almost certainly underestimates the true number.”

The states that allow professional licenses to be denied or revoked for unpaid student loans vary widely in how aggressively they use this draconian tool. For example, according to the Times article, Tennessee’s professional licensing authorities took some form of action against 5,400 licensees for unpaid debt between 2012 and 2017. Conversely, licensing officials from states like Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Washington say they do not take disciplinary action for student debt even though they have the statutory power to do so.

What is the Risk in Illinois?

Illinois law (20 ILCS 2105/2105-15) requires that the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation “deny any license or renewal… to any person who has defaulted on an educational loan or scholarship provided by or guaranteed by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission or any governmental agency of this State.”

While it is unclear how many Illinois licensees have been or remain at risk for debt-based disciplinary action, it appears that the IDFPR has not been particularly active in using its powers in this regard. But that could always change. If you are a licensed Illinois professional who has defaulted on your student loan debt, be aware that the career you financed with those loans could be threatened.

Louis Fine: Chicago Professional License Defense Attorney

As a former Chief Prosecuting Attorney and administrative law judge for IDFPR, I have seen the serious consequences that an adverse enforcement decision can have on professionals who suddenly find their future in disarray. I understand how and why the Department decides to pursue investigations, how it handles negotiations, and how to approach formal proceedings in a way that gives my clients the best possible chance of a positive and expeditious outcome.

Please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for your free initial consultation. Together, we will get you back to your clients and your career.