MACo Opposes Repeal of State Board of Environmental Health Specialists

Natasha Mehu, MACo Policy Analyst, testified in opposition to SB 200, Health Occupations – Environmental Health Specialists – Regulation, to the House Health & Government Operations Committee on March 29, 2016.

This bill would repeal the State Board of Environmental Health Specialists and shift licensure responsibilities to the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).

The proposed change will have a negative and costly impact on our local governments and the environmental health specialists that they employ. Both employee recruitment and employee retention will suffer as a result of this bill.

The field of environmental health already faces difficulties attracting new workers. NEHA licensure requirements will create a more stringent and expensive path to licensure than what is currently in place in Maryland – an additional deterrent to new employee prospects.

The shift also presents a threat to retaining existing employees due to the fact that there is no guarantee of reciprocity with current state licensed specialists.

In many cases these hard-working and experienced employees will have to take and pass the NEHA exam to continue their work. An additional subset of employees may not be able to meet the minimum education requirements under NEHA, requirements that did not exist when they were first licensed to practice in the state.

From the MACo testimony,

MACo is concerned that shifting state licensure oversight and requirements to the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) will create barriers to employment and result in a loss of employees. Counties rely on their staff of environmental health specialists to perform inspections and enforce compliance with health and environmental laws that help ensure citizens are safe. For decades, the state board has been instrumental in ensuring there has been a knowledgeable, skilled, and disciplined environmental specialist workforce in the state.

This bill passed the Senate (43-0) on March 16, 2016.

An identical cross-filed bill, HB 497, passed the House (135-0) on March 4, 2016. It was heard in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 7, 2016.

For more on MACo 2016 legislation, visit the Legislative Database.