Arizona Republic Report Leaves Out Important Details and Context On Universal Licensing

Arizona Republic Report Leaves Out Important Details and Context On Universal Licensing

By Jeffrey A. Singer |

The Arizona Republic recently published a report entitled, “Universal Licensing: Arizona opened the doors to less qualified workers‐​the public bears the risk.” In its investigation of Arizona’s universal licensing recognition law enacted in 2019—a reform so successful and popular that it is being emulated by more than a third of other states—it mentioned irrelevant incidents and presented out‐​of‐​context data to malign this bold and enlightened reform.

The article begins and ends with a heart‐​wrenching story about a California‐​licensed veterinarian who received a temporary Arizona license, granted under a 1967 law, to work at a Mesa, Arizona clinic. She’s been accused of poor surgical technique while operating on a kitten brought to the clinic on death’s doorstep. The kitten died and the vertinarian was fired from the clinic. Her temporary license expired after 30 days, and she was never granted the permanent license for which she applied. Yet readers are expected to view this as an indictment of Arizona’s universal licensing law.

Universal licensing dilutes the authority of state occupational licensing boards, so it is no surprise that a spokesperson from an organization representing that constituency, the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards, would be quoted in the article criticizing universal licensing over the fact that Arizona grants licenses to workers from states with less onerous licensing requirements—providing their out‐​of‐​state licenses are in good standing for at least a year.

It is wrong to assume that more onerous requirements are better. In many cases, incumbent occupations lobby state licensing boards to make requirements tougher for new entrants, usually “grandfathering” those already licensed, to reduce competition. Thus, EMTs must complete, on average, 33 days of training and pass 2 exams to get a license while cosmetologists need 11 months of training and interior designers need 73.

When it comes to the medical profession, licensing requirements are virtually identical in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They include graduating an accredited medical school, passing a standardized national licensing exam, and completing at least one year of postgraduate training. Yet few people realize that private third‐​party certification organizations do the heavy lifting when it comes to quality assurance.

For example, I am a general surgeon. As a licensed medical doctor, I can legally decide to switch my specialty to obstetrics and gynecology or dermatology or even psychiatry and display it on my door. However, health care facilities will not grant me practicing privileges without proof I completed postgraduate training in the specialty and will likely require board certification. Specialty boards will not grant me certification unless I complete accredited specialty training and pass their exams. Health plans will not include me on their provider panels without proof I completed the specialty training, and I will be unable to get malpractice insurance coverage for the same reason. Note how many independent, private third parties provide information and protection to consumers of already‐​licensed physicians. These are the real guarantors of safety.

The Republic report implies to readers that malpractice is automatically a reason to deny or revoke a license. Oftentimes, when medical or other professional malpractice cases are settled, the defendants do not stipulate to liability. Both settlements and convictions get reviewed by licensing boards. But unless convictions are repetitive or egregious, boards rarely restrict or revoke licenses. The same is true when boards investigate complaints directly lodged by customers or patients.

Yet the authors of the report infer that something must be amiss if an applicant receives a universal license from a licensing board when they have a history of a malpractice settlement in the state where they are already licensed. If every malpractice settlement justified denying or revoking a license, the entire country would have a desperate shortage of doctors, dentists, and other health care practitioners.

Historically, it has been the incumbent members of professions and occupations who lobbied state legislatures to license and regulate them—not the customers, clients, or patients. While incumbents promoted licensing under the guise of protecting the public, they were really protecting themselves by reducing competition from new entrants and, in the process, inflating prices for their services. The report’s authors cite another organization that represents the interests of incumbents, the Alliance For Responsible Professional Licensing, that defends occupational licensing by saying “licensing helps to solve problems of income disparity, boosting wages most at the bottom end of skill distribution.” But that doesn’t account for the innumerable people who are locked out of the opportunity to lift themselves from poverty by using their skills to make an honest living.

For example, at one time Arizona required African‐​style hair braiders to spend nearly one year and close to $10,000 to get a cosmetology license, which includes training to use chemicals to dye or treat hair, as well as hair cutting. They’re taught nothing about hair braiding. A lawsuit pushed lawmakers to end that requirement in Arizona, but such obstacles to hair braiders still exist in several other states. Louisiana florists “protected” the pubic from people who want to simply arrange flowers by successfully lobbying for a law that requires them to get a license. License requirements include passing a four‐​hour exam during which the applicant must arrange flowers while being judged by licensed florists. Louisiana is the only state that licenses flower arrangers. Does the Federation of Associations of Regulatory Boards criticize Arizona for having less onerous requirements on flower arrangers who relocate from Louisiana? The Republic’s reporters didn’t say.

The proliferation of occupational licensing laws, from interior decorators to fire alarm installers, may have boosted the income of those protected by a license, but they have prevented many people from lifting themselves out of poverty by entering such fields of endeavor. Indeed, in 2016 President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors issued a report detailing how licensing leads to higher prices and reduced opportunity. The Obama administration convinced Congress to appropriate grants to help states “enhance the portability of occupational licensing.”

In an earlier time, licensing laws were also used to exclude racial and ethnic minorities. The Cato Institute held a policy forum on this subject in November 2020 called “Race and Medical Licensing Laws.”

Furthermore, most state licensing boards deny licenses to people who have a history of a felony conviction. With nearly one‐​third of Americans these days having a record in the criminal justice system, licensing laws deny many people a second chance to better themselves. In May 2021 Governor Ducey signed into law HB 2067, which provides “Certificate[s] of Second Chance” to people convicted of certain felonies, which will help them obtain occupational and business licenses. The law does not apply universally to all crimes and convictions. For example, driving with a suspended license and criminal speeding are among the convictions excluded. Nevertheless, the new law at least helps some who’ve made mistakes in the past to clear the occupational licensing hurdle and forge a new and better life.

Arizona ignited a national trend in breaking down barriers to people of all backgrounds seeking to make an honest living while expanding options and choice for consumers. Universal licensing reform has bipartisan appeal. From blue states like New Jersey to red states like Missouri, lawmakers are uniting around the goal of removing the barriers to upward mobility that occupational licensing laws erect. Sadly, by citing irrelevant narratives, cherry‐​picking data, and failing to provide adequate context, the Arizona Republic article did this reform a great injustice.

This article originally appeared on the Cato Institute blog and can be found here.

Ducey’s Communications Director Not Impressed By Series Of ‘Conjecture And Innuendo’ Articles

Ducey’s Communications Director Not Impressed By Series Of ‘Conjecture And Innuendo’ Articles

By Terri Jo Neff |

Last week the Arizona Republic published a five-part series by news reporter Craig Harris which suggested something improper occurred when Gov. Doug Ducey’s office was consulted about a tax challenge filed by Carter Oil with the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR).

CJ Karamargin, for one, was not impressed.

Which matters, because Karamargin is Ducey’s director of communications. He is also a former journalist, having worked for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen.

So when Karamargin took to Twitter on Sunday with a 10-part critique of Harris’ series, people listened. The critique used words such as conjecture and innuendo. And that was among some of his nicer comments.

“No one I’ve talked to can understand the story or reporting. Probably because it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t get basic facts right,” Karamargin wrote in tweet #1.  One of those incorrect facts, he tweeted, is that someone named in the article as being a former employee had never worked for Ducey.

“When a reporter can’t even get names right, you’ve got a problem,” he wrote in tweet #3.

Karamargin also points out that some of the former public servants who provided information to Harris were in fact “disgruntled former employees” of the state whom the newspaper had previously reported about.

Once he got to tweet #5, Karamargin was on a roll.

“The accusations are false,” he wrote about suggestions in the articles that state officials considered a settlement in the ADOR tax challenge because someone connected to the matter could potentially be helpful to Ducey in a possible presidential run.

“Losing the case in court would have caused a ripple effect, impacting many more industries and businesses,” Karamargin wrote. “This would not only have had a significant impact on these businesses — it would have had a much more significant impact on state revenue than settling.”

In the end, there was no settlement with Carter Oil because the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state.

“So this story is about something that did not happen,” tweet #8 says. Then Karamargin did a little explaining about how things work in the executive branch of state government.

“Our office does not lobby state agencies; they report to us. Agency directors aren’t free agents…And they do not make decisions that have potentially 100s of millions of $ in impact to the state without consulting us.”

One of those named throughout Harris’ series is Carlton Woodruff, who was removed by Ducey as ADOR’s director in December. Woodruff’s departure amid a disagreement with the governor’s office over how to respond to a court challenge to Prop 208, the Invest in Education Act. The only comments at the time came from Karamargin.

“The role of state agencies is not to take policy positions but to implement the law,” he said, adding that Woodruff’s removal was “unrelated” to how the Carter Oil tax challenge was handled.

Arizona Republic Reporters Decry Study Alleging Paper’s Gender And Racial Pay Disparities

Arizona Republic Reporters Decry Study Alleging Paper’s Gender And Racial Pay Disparities

By Corinne Murdock |

A report from NewsGuild, the newspaper union, assessed that The Arizona Republic and 13 other newsrooms had gender and racial pay gaps. Outcry arose after it was claimed by the study that not only were those findings true, but The Arizona Republic had the largest gender and racial pay gaps of all the papers researched.


https://twitter.com/azrepublicguild/status/1387074221663145985

The research summarized that under The Arizona Republic, women made nearly $30,000 less than their male counterparts, whereas people of color earned $25,000 less than white employees.

On Thursday, Gannett issued a response saying that the NewsGuild research was a “misinformation campaign.”

.@Gannett issued a response to @newsguild and their misinformation campaign re: the ‘study’ of 14 out of our 250+ newsrooms. We address the facts that were not disclosed. Gannett is on a journey. We’ve been transparent about our goals. #facts[,]” wrote USA Today Network PR.


https://twitter.com/USATODAY_PR/status/1387772365808050197

Gannett explained that the research conclusions were made through a small sample size, and not the full set of the population. Further, information like job titles wasn’t included in the study.

“The sweeping generalizations used in your document are misleading,” wrote the company. “The fact is that data can be skewed to support any narrative – which is the tactic the Guild is using to share misinformation,” stated Gannett.

Indigenous affairs reporter Shondiin Silverman complained that The Arizona Republic that she should be earning more than $40,000 because of her master’s degree and decades of experience.

“It’s infuriating to see that the newsroom I have dedicated so much time and energy to doesn’t see my work as valuable as the other journalists in the room,” wrote Silversmith. “I have given more than enough to prove my worth. The fact that this newsroom does nothing to respect that is ridiculous.”


https://twitter.com/DiannaNanez/status/1387256917450362884

Some white reporters who’d previously worked for the paper confirmed what Silverman said.

Previous Arizona Republic reporter Bree Burkitt attested that she was earning $10,000 more than Silverman did to do the same job, despite not having a master’s degree or more years in job experience.

Other journalists with The Arizona Republic testified that the newspaper wasn’t diverse or inclusive.

Investigative reporter and The Arizona Republic Diversity Committee Chair Dianna Náñez said that in just over her dozen years, she’d never seen more inequality for minority reporters than under their paper’s current editor.

“Spent 15 yrs w/@azcentral. I love journalism/truth/my communities.Worked for 4 exec editors & w/all @gannett equity/inclusion efforts to make a diff[erence]. Believe me: Under current top editor, I saw [Silversmith], too many POC, women, LGBTQ journos devalued/discriminated against,” wrote Náñez.

In mid-April, The Arizona Republic Executive Editor Greg Burton issued a report stating that the paper is nearing its goal of matching community diversity. Burton described how over 75 percent of new hires were journalists of color, a great majority of which were women.

This month, Burton reported that The Arizona Republic would have 37 percent journalists of color. In 2016, that number was 20 percent. Additionally, 39 percent of managers are people of color – a nearly ten percent increase from last August.

“Our goal is to match a community that’s 44 percent people of color. We’re not there yet, but we’re making progress, and doing so while hiring the most skilled and promising journalists on the job market,” wrote Burton.

This mirrors a similar initiative announced by Gannett last year when it issued its “2020 Inclusion Report.” The company pledged to match the diversity of each paper’s community by 2025.

Per a 2019 analysis, circulation numbers for The Arizona Republic dropped below 100,000. The research noted that the paper had declined over 30 percent since 2017.

The Arizona population totals around 7.3 million people.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.