Family Science Report: NCFR’s Involvement in the Professional Certification Coalition
The Professional Certification Coalition (PCC) is a nonprofit association “founded in July 2018 to address efforts to enact state legislation that would undermine the activities or recognition of certifications developed or offered by non-governmental, private certification organizations” (PCC, 2019, para. 1). The PCC was formed by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)—of which NCFR is a member—the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), and lawyers from Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
In the Beginning
Before the development of the PCC, states began introducing bills to reform occupational licensing. In some cases, the purpose of these bills was to reduce employment barriers (e.g., allow easier entry into some employment areas). However, some bills included language that could have negatively affected voluntary certifications and the organizations that offer them. NCFR is one of those organizations, as we offer the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential.
We first learned of this potential threat in late April 2018, when a bill was introduced in Louisiana that would prohibit individuals from calling themselves certified. We were concerned about our CFLEs in Louisiana not being allowed to call themselves certified. We also were concerned about how this potential bill would have an impact on the four universities in Louisiana that offer coursework leading to the attainment of the CFLE. NCFR immediately took action and called on our CFLEs, CFLE-approved program faculty, and NCFR members in Louisiana to contact their legislators, the bill’s author, and members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and International Affairs. They did so in early May 2018, requesting the elimination of the prohibition on holders of voluntary certifications in the bill.
Many other organizations that provide voluntary certification in their respective fields also contacted Louisiana legislators. These efforts paid off—the bill was amended by eliminating the language related to the use of the term certified; individuals are allowed to continue to call themselves certified.
A second bill potentially causing harm to private certifications quickly passed through the Missouri legislature in May 2018. This bill was different from the Louisiana bill—the bill defined certification programs as a governmental function rather than being developed through private organizations (ASAE, 2018b). This bill was included in an omnibus package that required signature before the end of the state’s special session. The bill was signed.
After Missouri, 12 additional states introduced bills that were of concern to professional certifications. This is why the PCC was formed, in the belief that more bills would be introduced in early 2019 when legislative sessions began across the states (ASAE, 2018a; PCC personal communication, July 2018). The PCC is very active in supporting private certification through talking with stakeholders (e.g., legislators, others who support and oppose the legislation), suggesting amendments to potentially harmful bills, monitoring bills across all 50 states, hiring lobbyists as necessary, and more.
NCFR joined the PCC in early August 2018 to protect CFLE. Being a part of a coalition that includes more than 100 organizations provides a stronger force than one organization alone can in protecting private certifications. Joining the PCC fits squarely into NCFR Global Ends 3: “NCFR will represent scholars and professionals in Family Science by establishing standards for research, education, practice, and by advocating for the development and advancement of the discipline and the professions of Family Science.”
The 2019 Legislative Season
Just as the PCC anticipated, the 2019 legislative season saw an increase in bills introduced at the state level that could weaken the recognition of certification offered by private certification organizations.
At the time of writing this article, March 2019, the PCC was tracking 70 bills at the state level. Not all these bills are considered a direct concern to private certifications. For example, at least half of the bills being monitored are related to criminal reentry. This type of bill is designed to prevent a criminal history from being the sole reason one is unable to obtain an occupational license. Licensing is different from certification. The PCC is mostly concerned with clarifying that these bills aren’t a means to changing private certification (PCC personal communication, March 3, 2019).
Another set of bills being introduced that could have an impact on private certification are ones that the PCC considers “government vs. private certification legislation.” If signed into law, these types of bills allow for the possibility that individual state governments will create their own certification programs and supplanting private organizations that offer certifications. The PCC is concerned with these types of bills and recommends that the bills be amended with language indicating that the state government would create a certification only when there is not a suitable private certification available. The goal is to prevent the government from being a competitor to private certifications.
Much of the remaining types of legislation are geared toward occupational licensing. The PCC wants to ensure that these bills are not interpreted to also include certifications. As such, the PCC would like the bill authors to include language that keeps certification programs safe.
There are a number of activities the PCC engages in to keep coalition members informed and certification programs safe:
- Holding a monthly conference call to summarize problematic bills and efforts to minimize the negative effects of problematic bills;
- Authoring a white paper discussing the affects of legislation on certification programs;
- Communicating PCC’s concerns with key decision makers such as bill authors, legislative committee leaders, and stakeholder groups trying to reform occupational licensing;
- Drafting model language to be included in bills to protect certification programs;
- Involving coalition members when available to talk with state legislators; and
- Involving lobbyists as necessary to lobby on behalf of PCC and the protection of certification programs
These efforts are paying off. While the list of bills continues to grow, much progress has been made with stakeholders and legislators. For example:
- The importance of certification in the marketplace has been clarified for many legislators and stakeholder groups (Roosendaal, 2019).
- Some recent bills have been introduced with language protecting certification programs (PCC personal communication, March 6, 2019).
- Key stakeholders are recommending that legislators be careful when writing bills to not negatively affect the certification aspect of legislation (PCC personal communication, January 23, 2019).
NCFR will continue to be a member of the PCC and monitor bills that may negatively affect the CFLE credential. If and when there is a direct problem, we may call upon members to contact their legislators as we did with the bill in Louisiana.
American Society of American Executives. (2018a). ASAE, ICE form professional certification coalition. Retrieved from www.thepowerofa.org/2018/07/asae-ice-form-professional-certification-coalition/
American Society of American Executives. (2018b). MO credentialing bill signed by governor. Retrieved from www.thepowerofa.org/2018/06/mo-credentialing-bill-signed-by-governor/
Roosendaal, D. (2019). Update on legislative landscape in credentialing. Credentialing Insights: The Online Journal for ICE. Retrieved from www.credentialinginsights.org/blog/update-on-the-legislative-landscape-in-credentialing
Professional Certification Coalition. (2019). About PCC. Retrieved from www.profcertcoalition.org/about-pcc