Bill giving state licensure boards the tools to prevent fraud passes House

HARRISBURG, Dec. 13 – Advancing state Rep. Frank Burns’ efforts to protect Pennsylvanians against fraud, the state House today approved his bill that would provide a method for professional licensing boards in the state to quickly remove unqualified people from their positions.

A 2023 federal investigation known as Operation Nightingale found more than 7,000 fake nursing degrees and transcripts were sold by out-of-state colleges to thousands of aspiring nurses, including some in Pennsylvania. In the commonwealth, at least 89 individuals have been accused of using fraudulent education documents to help them obtain a nursing license, Burns said.

“When we seek care from a medical professional, help from an accountant, services from an engineer or treatment for a sick pet, we rely on well-trained, licensed professionals,” said Burns, chairman of the House Professional Licensure Committee. “Their certifications, permits and licenses give us peace of mind that they can safely and effectively perform their duties.

“However, in rare cases, bad actors can turn to obtaining licensure through fraudulent means, putting us, our family and others at risk. My bill would add a measure of protection where state licensing is concerned.”

Burns’ bill (H.B. 1882) would establish a process by which the 29 licensing boards and commissions in the commonwealth may immediately revoke someone’s license, permit, certification or registration if there is probable cause to believe it was acquired using false or fraudulent documents.

Current law does not provide an immediate remedy in cases like this. The current process to rescind a license is lengthy and tailored toward those who obtained their license legitimately, but later face disciplinary action. He said approximately 80 nurses in Pennsylvania still hold their active license while their cases work their way through the board’s disciplinary process.

Under Burns’ bill, the licensee would be given 10 business days’ notice of their license revocation and an opportunity to demonstrate the legitimacy of their documentation at a hearing to be held within 20 business days of the revocation date. If the individual can demonstrate their credential was not issued fraudulently, the board would not be able to challenge it again without new evidence.

Burns long has been a proponent of protecting Pennsylvanians against fraud, from advocating for authentication of citizenship before receiving welfare benefits and for photos to be placed on those benefit cards, to supporting a photo ID requirement voting.

The bill passed the House and now moves to the Senate for consideration.