Easing Occupational Licensing Restrictions will help Americans Overcome Barriers to Employment | Citizens Against Government Waste

Easing Occupational Licensing Restrictions will help Americans Overcome Barriers to Employment

The WasteWatcher

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, state governments have made changes to occupational licensing laws and regulations to make it easier to provide needed services and help individuals who find themselves unable to complete educational requirements or are simply out of work.  Most of these of these measures were temporary, but states are addressing this problem and are passing legislation to permanently relax occupational licensing laws and restrictions.  Congress is also addressing reforms to occupational licensing that would review and identify policies that would reduce employment barriers at the federal level to give more freedom to the states and workers. 

On December 14, 2020, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order on “Increasing Economic and Geographic Mobility” that built on his February 24, 2017 EO 13777 to alleviate regulatory burdens on occupational licensing.  The EO requires state, territorial, or tribal governments to issue a license to those who are in good standing and hold a license for their area of discipline.  Since then, several states have also passed legislation that would recognize out-of-state licenses, including Mississippi and South Dakota.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox (R) and Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson (R) signed a similar measure for agencies to review occupational licenses earlier this year.  The executive order that was signed requires state agencies to review occupational licenses to ensure they are necessary and not outdated by June 30, 2021.  

On May 12, 2021, Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) sponsored H.R. 3145, the Freedom to Work Act.  This legislation requires federal agencies to identify and review any federal policies that could cause state and local governments to adopt occupational licensing requirements; report on recommended changes to these policies; and enact or adopt the changes.  The bill will provide more flexibility to state and local governments to choose how to reform and remove restrictions.  This bill will also require states to include their plans on reducing occupational licensing barriers in their Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plans.  

Rep. Harshbarger stated, “Many occupational licensing requirements, under the guise of consumer safety, are simply a big government power grab to prevent competition and keep would-be workers out of a particular job market.”  While licensing is usually for the purpose of public safety, some of the requirements are questionable.  Many states require more than 1,000 hours of education in order to become a shampooer, cosmetologist, or barber along with hundreds of dollars in fees.  However, it takes several hundred hours of experience with less fees to become a pharmacy technician or an emergency medical technician.  Rep. Harshbarger has stated that her bill “would encourage less red tape and make it easier for Americans to enter the workforce following a career of their choice.” 

Removing occupational licensing barriers permanently will relieve individuals of high fees and burdensome educational requirements.  Removing barriers at the federal level provides more freedom to states to reduce occupational licensing requirements.  Many rules and regulations were suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, and there is no better time than now to bring permanent reforms to occupational licensing laws that would give more freedom to workers beyond the pandemic.