Washington cyber-incident threatens data security
The Week in Brief is your weekly snapshot of regulatory news and what's happening in the world of professional licensing, government technology, and public policy. This week, a Washington state regulator is hit by a massive cyberattack, licensing boards must provide more reasoning for rejecting complaints, and Wisconsin joins a growing list of states helping military families with licensure.

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Washington state licensing agency cyber-incident potentially exposes data from 250,000 professionals

Washington’s State Department of Licensing has reported a cyber-incident that could have compromised the sensitive personal information of over 250,000 licensed professionals in the state. In a statement, the agency noted that it recently became aware of “suspicious activity involving professional and occupational license data.” The state’s Professional Online Licensing and Regulatory Information System (POLARIS) system contains information ranging from dates of birth and driver license numbers to social security numbers and other personally identifying information. Officials say they have shut down POLARIS to protect the personal information of professional licensees. Read more at ZD net and bolster your cybersecurity preparedness with this helpful paper.

Licensing boards would have to provide reasons for rejecting complaints under new bill

A bill proposed in Iowa would require state licensing boards to explain when they refuse to investigate the complaints of consumers, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports. The bill would also make any determinations that investigations aren’t warranted subject to judicial review. As it stands, licensing boards in the state can turn down complaints seeking investigations into licensees without providing any reasoning. If the bill is enacted, boards would have to provide complainants with statements specifying the reasons for dismissing the complaint. The bill states that the explanation must be “sufficient to enable the complainant to review the board’s determination.”

Pennsylvania boosts efforts to help immigrants overcome professional licensing barriers

Pennsylvania’s Department of State says it is enhancing efforts to help new Pennsylvanian immigrants, refugees, and asylees overcome language, education, and other barriers required for professional licenses. In 2019, government officials signed a law intended to make it easier for new Pennsylvanians, such as military spouses, with credentials in other states, territories, or countries with equivalent requirements and no disciplinary history to acquire occupational licenses in the state. Another 2020 law requires boards and commissions to avoid using a person’s criminal history to deny professional licenses – unless their criminal history is directly related to the occupation. Read more about it at the Pennsylvania Pressroom or Reading Eagle.

Wisconsin joins growing list of states helping military families with professional licensing

Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services is now taking applications for a new grant program designed to hasten entry into the civilian licensed workforce for current and former military members. The grant program is meant to support active-duty military and veterans while addressing workforce issues in Wisconsin. Specifically, the Military Pathways Grant Program will hand up to $50,000 to training and educational institutions that want to create formal tracks to enable current and former military members to meet occupational licensing requirements. See the details on the state’s website.

Proposed changes to Minnesota teacher licensure head to House floor

A new House Education Policy Committee bill in Minnesota would let school districts and charter schools adopt crisis online learning plans under certain conditions. If passed, the bill would set into motion a pilot program for short-call substitute teachers, while also allowing teachers with lapsed teaching licenses to take new teaching positions and providing conditional teaching licenses for those who haven’t yet passed their licensure exam. The bill is designed in part to combat a persistent labor shortage among teachers in the state. Read more at the Minnesota Legislature website.

Utah considers continuing program preventing overcrowding during pandemic

Utah is considering continuing a program established during the pandemic to address plummeting nursing staffing levels through the crisis. The emergency nurses apprentice program, created by Utah’s Department of Occupational and Professional Licensing in November 2020, allows nursing students in their final pre-graduation semester to work under other registered nurses or doctors. The bill to continue the program is moving to the state’s House of Representatives after being approved by the Senate by a 26-0 vote. Read more on The Spectrum.

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Paul Leavoy
Written byPaul Leavoy
Paul Leavoy is Editor of Ascend Magazine and writes on occupational licensing, regulation, digital government, and public policy.

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