© 2024 WSKG

601 Gates Road
Vestal, NY 13850

217 N Aurora St
Ithaca, NY 14850

FCC Public Files:
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

WSKG thanks our sponsors...

Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro targets state license and permit bottlenecks in latest executive order

Gov. Josh Shapiro signs an executive order aimed at professional licensing and permitting at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Jan. 31, 2023.
Sam Dunklau / WITF
Gov. Josh Shapiro signs an executive order aimed at professional licensing and permitting at the state Capitol in Harrisburg on Jan. 31, 2023.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is targeting the state’s licensing and permitting process with a new executive order.

Flanked by state leaders and business owners, Shapiro signed the order at a Capitol ceremony Tuesday, which gives state agencies the next three months to review any license and permit processes they oversee from top to bottom. The aim is to eventually come up with firm decision deadlines for anyone who applies.

Shapiro said he’s heard from nurses, teachers and cosmetologists who faced recent licensing delays that forced them out of work.

“For too many Pennsylvanians, when they hear back [from state government] often feels arbitrary and uncertain and takes way too much time. Sometimes they don’t hear back at all,” he said.

Though more than 130 types of professionals need a state license to work in Pennsylvania, some have complained the process to get one is exceedingly slow at times. WITF and NPR reported last year that around 6,000 nurses who applied for licenses in 2021 had to wait three months or more – one of the highest wait times in the country.

Delays like that almost cost Allentown salon owner Elizabeth Strong her livelihood. She said she faced weeks of unexpected delays trying to renew her cosmetology license recently. Despite sending in multiple checks for fees she owed, she said they were never cashed. The logjam was cleared only when her state representative intervened.

“I was pretty upset,” Strong said at Tuesday’s signing. “Imagine: my career is hanging in the balance here. So I didn’t know what to do.”

“These are people’s lives on the line here, and we’re kind of at the mercy of our state licensing,” she added.

Over the next three months, agencies will need to come up with a recommended application decision deadline, based on things like the number of applications they receive and how many staff they have to help process them.

After that deadline is set, if the agency fails to meet it, they’ll be required to refund that person’s application fee. Shapiro called it a “money-back guarantee.”

It’s not clear whether more workers will be needed to help with processing, though Shapiro said agencies will figure that out during the upcoming review.

Acting Secretary of State Al Schmidt said the Department of State, which oversees state licensing boards, processes around 80,000 new license applications and around 375,000 renewal licenses each year.

“The first step in this is to determine how long an appropriate amount of time is for licenses and certifications and other things to be processed,” Schmidt said. “Not to rush through them, but to determine what that appropriate time is without sacrificing the integrity of the process.”

Schmidt characterized the move at Tuesday’s signing as a “government accountability measure,” not one designed to speed up any licensing process. Many licensing and permitting requirements are set by state law, and Shapiro conceded he can’t change those with a stroke of a pen.

“What we’re saying is…we’re going to have certainty for the public,” Shapiro said. “If we say it’s going to be 90 days, it’ll be 90 days, and if we get to Day 91 and we haven’t provided you an answer, we’re going to give you your money back.”

The Governor’s Office said new processing deadlines will eventually be published on state websites.