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NJBIA testified Monday afternoon in support of a bill that would reduce wait times for state-issued professional and occupational licenses by stopping the budgetary diversions of application fees to unrelated programs so that licensing boards have the funds to update antiquated technology and expedite the review process.

Bill S-3939, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lagana (D-38) and Vin Gopal (D-11), was uananimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today.

In written testimony, NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Althea D. Ford said that the diversion of licensing fees to the state’s general fund for decades has left the state Division of Consumer Affairs under-resourced and unable to adequately support its dozens of different licensing boards.

“Delays in the approval of professional and occupational credentials contribute to existing staffing shortages experienced by many industries,” Ford said.

“Having to wait months for a professional or occupational board to schedule a practical examination required for licensure, or to review and process submitted applications,… sends a message that the individual seeking to enter New Jersey’s workforce and answer the call to alleviate industry shortages is not a priority.”

NJBIA and a coalition of business groups wrote to state leaders last year urging action to address the long wait time for the approval of applications for professional and occupational licenses.

The backlog was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, creating critical shortages in professionals ranging from social work and nursing to engineering and accounting.

Bill S-3939 requires state boards that issue professional or occupational licenses to contact national or regional associations to obtain data on the average approval time in other states and to calculate a national average. Each New Jersey board would be required to meet that standard for every profession or occupation that it regulates.

If the New Jersey board cannot meet that standard, it would be required to contract with a third-party with expertise in the professions or occupations regulated by the board to determine best practices to improve the turnaround time for licenses and implement that plan immediately.

“We believe this bill will prioritize the implementation of best practices and we support its data-driven approach to identifying and implementing a national average time for approving initial credentialing,” Ford said. “The mandated reinvestment of credentialing fees to each board will provide the financial resources necessary to implement those best practices.”

Go here to read Ford’s entire written testimony.