Fans of HGTV could have seen a battle between strong-willed home design experts in an unlikely place Thursday: the state Capitol.

Designers, builders and architects brought more than swatches, drawing tools and paint chips to the table as they squared off before a state House panel on whether interior design should become the next licensed profession in Pennsylvania.

Some designers said they would welcome licensing because it would set them apart from decorators or other designers who do not have college degrees and have not passed a national certification exam. Hundreds of people flooded the hearing room and an overflow area with a closed-circuit TV.

Opponents included a group called Liberty for PA Designers, a statewide organization dedicated to “fighting for the right to design in freedom.”

Supporters said the measure would give designers the option to be licensed and provide consumers the choice of what type of professional to hire, similar to the difference between hiring an “accountant” and a “certified public accountant.”

“Those designers who have education, experience and testing behind them should be recognized and regulated,” said Kathryn Jolley, a principal at DRS Architects in Pittsburgh.

Florida, Louisiana and Nevada are the only states that license interior designers.

State Rep. Tim Solobay, D-Washington County, wrote the bill that would license interior designers. It’s before the House Professional Licensure Committee, which held Thursday’s hearing but took no action on the bill.

Under Solobay’s plan, a licensed interior designer would have to have a bachelor’s degree or higher from a program approved by a licensing board that would be created and two years of professional experience. Designers would also have to pass the National Council for Interior Design Qualification exam or an equivalent test to be licensed.

Decorators who go into homes and help people choose color schemes or other decor would not fall under the bill, Solobay said. He said interior design refers to those who work more closely with architects and is not intended to apply to decorators, kitchen and bath remodelers, or builders.

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