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Lawmakers advance bill prohibiting noncompetes for several medical fields


State lawmakers are advancing a bill that prohibits non-compete clauses for several health care practitioners.

Supporters say they want to break down barriers to health care access.

A non-compete clause is a contract that establishes certain terms of employment if that professional leaves an employer. It can often mean someone is prohibited from practicing in their field for a certain amount of time if they leave an employer.

Backers say non-competes for practitioners hurt rural health care.

House Bill 1185 adds 13 professions to the list of practitioners prohibited from entering noncompete contracts, including respiratory practitioners, athletic trainers and mental health counselors.

Chiropractors were not originally included in the bill.

Rep. Fred Deutsch, who is a retired chiropractor, is the prime sponsor. He said there’s a simple reason chiropractors are not included.

“They didn’t ask to be included, along with everybody else,” Deutsch said. “The only people that got included were those that asked.”

Critics say the law should extend to all health-related fields, not just the ones listed.

Republican State Sen. Lee Schoenbeck has been historically opposed to removing non-compete clauses. He was the only no vote against the bill.

“The irony of Chiropractics not being included in a bill proposed by a chiropractor to do away with these for every other profession is a bridge too far," Schoenbeck said.

Senators amended the bill to include chiropractors, dentists and podiatrists. The bill now heads back to the House to approve the amendments.

The governor’s office supports the legislation, saying a whole range of workers should be able to work freely without noncompetes. They say removing that barrier helps address the state’s ongoing workforce shortage.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.