Licensing boards can’t adopt anti-competitive rules

A recent ruling telling dental regulators to drop an anti-competitive measure in Alabama shows why Mississippi was right to begin overseeing licensing boards controlled by active market participants.

Here’s the story from Alabama.

The Board of Dental Examiners of Alabama, which is made of dentists, enacted a rule that prohibited the ability to perform scans for alignment devices from a remote location, or teledentistry. This came after startups like SmileDirectClub began operating in Alabama. The board went on to deliver cease-and-desist letter to providers who offered the service without on-site dentists.

The Federal Trade Commission challenged this rule, arguing that “the actions of the Dental Board have deprived consumers in Alabama of low-price, convenient options for teeth alignment treatment without any legitimate justification or defense.”

As part of a consent agreement, the Alabama dental board has agreed to stop requiring on-site supervision. This will provide Alabamians, particularly those who live in rural areas with a shortage of dental professionals, the ability to use teledentistry services.

In Mississippi, a similar board would have had to go through the Occupational Licensing Review Commission before trying to make such a change. Enacted in 2017, the OLRC – which is made up of the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general – provides supervision of licensing boards that are comprised of active market participants, meaning those who also work directly in the field they are regulating.

Before this legislation, a board could have enacted that type of rule without much fanfare. If they would like to do that now, they would need to show the OLRC why their proposal is not anti-competitive, a move that would be a pretty tall task.

While this is a good start, Mississippi has much work to do to reduce our regulatory burden. With more than 118,000 regulations on the books, Mississippi is the most regulated state in the Southeast, when adjusted for population.

Mississippi is off to a good start. That work needs to continue.