SB533 counts in large amounts

Eric Shierman_thb

by Eric Shierman

In the sad world of occupational licensing, I’m always looking for something positive to write about. Most success in labor market deregulation these days is coming from the courts, but the Oregon Senate’s unanimous passage of SB533 on Tuesday marks a sign of hope.

In the case of litigating the right to make a living, the Institute of Justice scored a major victory last month in its broad campaign to restore 14th Amendment protection to our economic liberties. The 5th Circuit unanimously ruled in favor of IJ’s client, the monks at The Benedictine Order of St. Joseph Abbey, ruling that the Louisiana Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors’ exclusion of the monks’ right to sell their hand crafted caskets was an unconstitutional violation of both the monks’ right to equal protection under the law and their due process. In case you missed it, that ruling, in what has now become known as St. Joseph’s Abbey v Castille, was a big deal, sending ripples far beyond the funeral business.

It seems unlikely The Supreme Court will grant cert to this case, but if it does, this is definitely the case we want to move forward.

Louisiana is one of the very few states with a more burdensome occupational licensing regime than Oregon, and yet the advancement of SB533 in our very own legislature, though obviously not as sweeping as a landmark court case like St. Joseph’s, in its own way this small bill is quite significant too, because it’s much more difficult to advance rights by legislation than by litigation.

SB533 expands, indeed doubles, the amount of labor that nurse practitioners are allowed to contribute in managed care organizations that care for injured workers. In this case the political pressure to put some breaks on the rising cost of worker’s compensation claims is triumphing over the politically powerful local reach of the American Medical Association.

Oregon already leads the country in its tolerant acceptance of nurse practitioners’ already robust work in primary care. It’s not hard to see how quickly the political stars are aligning to expand this farther and faster than one would have thought possible even a year ago. It seem rather obvious there beckons much opportunity to include a great deal more health care labor market deregulation into the governor’s evolving plans to pioneer new healthcare teams that get compensated by outcome rather than by procedure.

In the meantime, SB533 now sits on the Oregon House speaker’s desk awaiting referral. Though small, when it comes to deregulation, everything counts in large amounts.

Eric Shierman lives in southwest Portland and is the author of A Brief History of Political Cultural Change. He also writes for the Oregonian’s My Oregon blog.