Occupational Licensing Sunrise Reports and Interior Design Proposal
Proposed legislation, 2019 Senate Bill 541, would require the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to prepare a report on any bill requiring an individual to obtain a license in order to engage in a particular profession or occupation. Similar “sunrise” laws have been adopted in several other states.
At the same time, legislation has been introduced to revise Wisconsin’s existing ”title” law governing the registration of interior designers and expand the scope of interior design practice to include architecture – 2019 Senate Bill 303.
It is informative to apply the criteria in the “sunrise” legislation to the interior design bill. Interior design proposals have failed in states with “sunrise” laws.
Under the “sunrise” proposal, the required report by DSPS must include the following:
- An evaluation of whether the unregulated practice of the profession can clearly harm or endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public;
- An evaluation of whether the public can reasonably be expected to benefit from requiring the profession to be licensed;
- An evaluation of the least restrictive regulation of the profession that would effectively protect the public; and
- An analysis of licensure requirements in other states.
Let’s see how the interior design proposal stands up to the evaluation criteria in the “sunrise” report, which is required to be distributed prior to any vote or public hearing.
Does the unregulated practice of interior design clearly harm or endanger the health, safety or welfare of the public and is the potential harm recognizable and not remote or speculative?
The proponents of the interior design legislation have not identified any instances of harm to public health, safety or welfare caused by the unregulated practice of interior design in Wisconsin. The “sunrise” reviews of interior design proposals in Colorado and Washington failed to uncover clear evidence that the unregulated practice of interior design harms the public.
Can the public be reasonably expected to benefit from requiring interior designers to be licensed?
Proponents of expanding the scope of interior design practice offer an unsubstantiated economic rationale that it could reduce the cost of certain projects by eliminating the need for an architect or professional engineer. However, the purpose of long-standing state requirements that an architect or professional engineer be involved in projects of this scope and size is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. The “sunrise” reviews of interior design proposals in other states have concluded that state licensing is not necessary because the public can reasonably expect that an interior designer is a competent practitioner through certification, testing and experience requirements established by related professional associations.
What is the least restrictive regulation of interior designers that would effectively protect the public?
In Wisconsin, anyone can offer to provide interior design services. Wisconsin’s “title” registration law only regulates who can use the specific title “Wisconsin registered interior designer.” Title protection laws represent one of the least restrictive levels of state regulation. With no evidence to the contrary, the existing state regulations for interior designers effectively protect the public. The proposed interior design legislation is not necessary. In fact, a legislative report on state occupational licensing submitted by DSPS in December 2018 recommended that Wisconsin eliminate the existing title registration for interior designers because it one of the “most burdensome licensing requirements of all occupations.”
What are the licensing requirements for interior designers in other states?
Wisconsin is one of 19 states with voluntary title registration for interior designers without permitting authority. In addition, 21 other states do not regulate interior design at all. The 40 states with either title registration or no regulation for interior designers include our neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan. The recent DSPS state occupational licensing study noted that only four states regulate the practice of interior design.
The interior design proposal does not meet the criteria for state occupational licensing established in the “sunrise” legislation. It is unnecessary because it fails to increase consumer protection or enhance public health, safety and welfare. There is a straightforward alternative that would not involve any statutory or administrative rule changes. In Wisconsin, if interior designers want to practice architecture, they can apply for an architect license by using their qualifying interior design education and work experience and passing the required Architect Registration Examination (ARE).
Founded in 1911, AIA Wisconsin is the state society of the American Institute of Architects. With over 1,500 individual members, AIA Wisconsin represents architects and allied professionals in private practice, business, industry, government and education.