Testimony from:

Marc Hyden, Director, State Government Affairs, R Street Institute

In SUPPORT of SB 352, “Professions; issuance of expedited licenses by endorsement for certain licenses to spouses of firefighters, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers who relocate to the State of Georgia; provide”

February 1, 2022

Senate Regulated Industries Committee

Chairman and members of the committee:

My name is Marc Hyden. I am a Georgia resident and the director of state government affairs for the R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective government in many areas, including occupational licensing reform. This is why SB 352 is of special interest to us.

Despite having a record low unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, Georgia is facing critical workforce deficiencies, which are impacting public health and public safety. [1] Recent studies have demonstrated that Georgia has the 5th lowest number of dentists, 5th lowest number of nurses and 11th lowest number of doctors per capita. [2] According to a 2018 Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, 79 Georgia counties do not have an obstetrician/gynecologist, 64 are without a pediatrician and nine have no physicians whatsoever. These shortages particularly impact rural Georgia. [3]

While not a new issue, these deficiencies were exposed by the pandemic, exacerbating their circumstances. The results left medical facilities in Georgia and their employees overworked and stretched to the limit, while the health of Georgians hangs in the balance. [4]

Similar to Georgia’s healthcare industry, public safety is also facing a harrowing set of issues. A National Police Foundation survey revealed that nearly 90 percent of police departments have reported staffing shortages, and Peach State departments are no exception. [5] A December 2020 report found that the Atlanta Police Department was suffering mightily. “There are 1,603 officers currently on the force, about 400 short of its ‘authorized strength’ of 2,046 total officers,” the report read. [6] Meanwhile, the Georgia Sheriffs Association indicates that some rural departments are likewise struggling to fill their ranks. Serious crimes have been surging over the past few years in Georgia. [7] At the same time, local jurisdictions, including Coweta County and the city of Atlanta, have announced firefighter staffing shortages—putting Georgians at risk. [8]

Over the past several years, the legislature has worked to alleviate many of these issues, but we are still facing these problems and have little hope for immediate relief. According to a Georgia Chamber of Commerce report, “Pre-COVID, there were 3 openings for every person looking for a job in our state,” and though we now have an even lower unemployment rate, employers are still inhibited by a shortage of qualified applicants. [9] The only short-term remedy is to encourage public safety and healthcare workers to relocate to Georgia, but certain regulations disincentivize them from doing so.

As it stands, around 25 percent of Americans are required to obtain an occupational license to work, including many spouses of public safety and healthcare workers. [10] However, it stands to reason that fewer first responders will consider relocating to Georgia if their spouses will have difficulties finding employment here, and thanks to burdensome—and often duplicative—occupational licensing requirements, they will.

SB 352 will help address this problem by expanding the military spouse licensure act to cover spouses of healthcare providers, law enforcement officers and firefighters, while simultaneously ensuring consumers are protected from unqualified workers. [11] It would do so by simply directing licensing boards to offer expedited licensure by endorsement to spouses who:

With Georgia’s public health and safety languishing, there is little time to waste. As such, it is critical that the legislature pass SB 352.

Thank you,

Marc Hyden
Director, State Government Affairs
R Street Institute
(404) 918-2731
[email protected]

[1] Associated Press, “Georgia unemployment rate again falls to new all-time low,” WABE, Jan. 20, 2022. https://www.wabe.org/georgia-unemployment-rate-again-falls-to-new-all-time-low.

[2] “Active dentists, by state: United States, selected years 2001–2019,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, last accessed Jan. 26, 2022. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK569311/table/ch3.tab42; NurseJournal Staff, “The U.S. Nursing Shortage: A State-by-State Breakdown,” NurseJournal, Nov. 12, 2021. https://nursejournal.org/articles/the-us-nursing-shortage-state-by-state-breakdown; “Georgia Physician Workforce Profile,” Association of American Medical Colleges, 2019. https://www.aamc.org/media/37886/download.

[3] Ariel Hart, “Georgia faces rural doctor shortage,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug. 17, 2018. https://www.ajc.com/news/state–regional-govt–politics/georgia-faces-rural-doctor-shortage/JqAwfs1SLiqCwVNronKScM.

[4] Reed Abelson, “Covid Overload: U.S. Hospitals Are Running Out of Beds for Patients,” The New York Times, Nov. 27, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/27/health/covid-hospitals-overload.html.

[5] Rick McCrabb, “Shortage of police officers becoming ‘a crisis across the country’ as there are fewer cadets, more retirements,” Yahoo! News, June 22, 2021. https://news.yahoo.com/shortage-police-officers-becoming-crisis-183900129.html.

[6] Addie Haney, “Atlanta Police down 220 officers since start of January, department says,” 11 Alive News, Dec. 9, 2020. https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/atlanta-police-numbers-2020/85-a54ace87-bed2-4d41-87b1-150a9b877672.

[7] Joe Henke, “FBI crime data shows drastic spike in homicides on national level, across Georgia, and in Atlanta,” 11 Alive News, Sept. 27, 2021. https://www.11alive.com/article/news/crime/fbi-crime-data-shows-drastic-spike-in-homicides-on-national-level-across-georgia-and-in-atlanta/85-860d4de5-bdb0-452c-84bd-20b9c4da9074.

[8] Morse Diggs, “Atlanta fire commanders dealing with staff, equipment shortage” Fox 5 Atlanta, Aug 30, 2021. https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/atlanta-fire-commanders-dealing-with-staff-equipment-shortageJustin Wilfon, “Staffing shortages at metro fire department could put the community at risk,” WSB-TV Atlanta, Aug. 21, 2021. https://www.wsbtv.com/news/local/coweta-county/staffing-shortages-metro-fire-department-could-put-community-risk/IWHZQSQBOFGW7FIKQHMGQ37JEM.

[9] “Winning the War for Talent,” Georgia Chamber Foundation, last accessed Jan. 26, 2022. https://www.gachamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/gac-2022-01-10-v4-WarForTalent-booklet-hw.pdf.

[10] “The State of Occupational Licensing: Research, State Policies and Trends,” National Conference of State Legislatures, last accessed Jan. 27, 2022. https://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/HTML_LargeReports/occupationallicensing_final.htm#:~:text=Licensure%20Trends%20in%20the%20U.S.,workers%20today%20(Figure%201).

[11] GA Code § 43-1-34.1 (2020). https://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2020/title-43/chapter-1/section-43-1-34-1.

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