Under state law, people licensed to sell and fit glasses in Virginia must be high school graduates, take a two-year course at an approved school of opticianry and never have been convicted of a sex offense or selling drugs.
But state auditors said Tuesday that all those rules really aren’t necessary, recommending to members of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission that the state scrap its licensing programs for opticians and two other professions: residential energy analysts and firms and community managers.
Why? Because they say there’s no evidence unlicensed practitioners pose a danger to public health or safety.
“An incompetent optician could improperly fill a prescription, cut a lens wrong, or sell a customer ill-fitting frames, but the customer is likely to notice these errors and seek correction,” the report says.
JLARC also suggests deregulating certified natural gas auto mechanics, because not a single person is regulated under the program established by 2014 legislation put forward by then-Del. Scott Taylor, a Virginia Beach Republican.
And they say several other professions should be reviewed: soil scientists, waste management facility operators and landscape architects.
House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, responded enthusiastically, saying the report dovetails nicely with a legislative mandate put in place this year for the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to eliminate 25 percent of its regulations.
DPOR Director Jay DeBoer reminded the committee members that the only reason his department is regulating certain professions is because lawmakers passed laws requiring it to.
“We don’t go out looking for things to regulate,” he said. “If you want to abolish a regulatory scheme, please remember you’ve got to eliminate the statutory requirement before we can do anything.”
But he reminded the lawmakers than any moves toward deregulation would likely be met with strong opposition from within the professions that are licensed.
“When there are people who have our credentials, you’re going to hear from every single one and they’re not going to want you to abolish it,” he said.
Indeed, opticians are already bristling at the suggestion industry standards shouldn’t be enforced.
“Eyeglasses are critical,” said Judy Canty, president of the Opticians Association of Virginia. “The reality is poorly-made gasses can affect your everyday living from giving you good vision to giving you uncomfortable vision.”
She said educational requirements of the license ensure that opticians have independent training and aren’t just salespeople trying to meet quotas.
“The risk of deregulation is poorly-made eyewear that’s not made to the specifications of the doctor,” she said.
There was one area DeBoer suggested is ripe for action that would be relatively uncontroversial: the certification for natural gas auto mechanics that no one has signed up for.
“You’ve got to get rid of (it),” he said, saying the department hasn’t been able to establish a board because of the lack of interest.
“We begged and pleaded with Congressman Taylor not to do it,” he said.