Occupational Licensing Executive Order Will Benefit Utah Workers | Citizens Against Government Waste

Occupational Licensing Executive Order Will Benefit Utah Workers

The WasteWatcher

After Utah Governor Spencer Cox (R) and Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson (R) were sworn into office, they signed an executive order requiring state agencies to review occupational licenses to ensure they are necessary and not outdated by June 30, 2021.  State agencies are also required to submit a report to the Governor’s Office, “including recommendations regarding ways to remove barriers to licensing and limit unnecessary government regulation.”  This is a good step in the right direction, but Utah needs to do more to reform its occupational licensing laws. 

Utah currently ranks 13th in the nation for the “most burdensome licensing laws,” according to the Institute for Justice’s License to Work report. The Utah chapter of Americans for Prosperity and Libertas Institute have called on the state to make occupational licensing reforms for several years. 

During the 2020 Utah Legislative Session just before the pandemic struck, the legislature passed a bill to make it easier for people from other states to work in Utah.  This legislation also allowed telemedicine across state borders.  However, the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing can “refuse a license to a person” if the agency determines that there is a “reasonable cause” for someone to not be licensed in the state.  The bill did not define “reasonable cause,” which needs to be clarified so individuals know whether they should apply for a license.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic and President Trump’s announcement of the formation of the Governor’s Initiative on Regulatory Innovation, Utah started working on occupational licensing reform.  Utah passed occupational licensing reform laws during the pandemic, as well.  On August 17, 2020, the Utah Legislature passed HB 6005, which temporarily adjusted the requirements for cosmetology and associated professions by clarifying that online instruction can comprise up to 50 percent of the educational requirements instead of the original 30 percent as recommended by the Department of Education.  

The bill also enabled barber, cosmetology, electrologist, hair design, and nail technology schools to continue teaching and accrediting students online until December 31, 2020.  The bill has a sunset date of July 1, 2022.  While businesses can apply for an extension of distance learning beyond December 31, the state should consider making these changes permanent or extend the date to give more teaching options to instructors and not require schools to apply for the extension.

While licensing is usually for the purpose of public safety, some of the requirements are questionable.  Utah requires 1,000 hours of education are required in order to become a shampooer or barber along with $234 in fees, and it takes 1,600 hours of education and $234 in fees to become a cosmetologist.  However, it takes only 600 hours of experience with $295 in fees to become a pharmacy technician and only 120 hours of education and $195 in fees to become an emergency medical technician.  Handling medicine and health-related occupations have far more to do with public safety than dealing with cleaning or cutting hair, as well as applying skin products. 

The executive order to review Utah’s occupational licensing rules will help residents get back to work during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Other states should follow Utah’s example in reducing the regulatory burdens on occupational licensing.

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