Iowa to offer universal recognition of job licenses
Last weekend, our neighbors in Iowa took a big step forward in occupational licensing reform with the passage of House File 2627 by both houses of the legislature. The governor is expected to sign the bill—probably in a signing ceremony worthy of a significant reform effort—sometime in the next week.
The Iowa bill does not have the regular review mechanism that Nebraska’s 2018 licensure reform bill put into place; however, it takes steps that are still awaiting action in the Cornhusker state. A brief overview of the Iowa legislation follows.
- Universal recognition. Universal recognition is the state assumption that experience and knowledge in your occupational field do not disappear when you cross state lines.
- Many states have enacted limited universal recognition for military members and spouses. They are typically temporarily in the state and practitioners of occupations like teaching, cosmetology, or some medical occupations not currently covered by interstate compact.
- During times of emergency—especially natural disasters—many states allow practitioners in fields that are most critically needed to receive temporary licensure—for instance, building trades contractors. If those practitioners decided to stay in the state post-emergency, however, they would be subject to the state’s normal licensing laws—which could include more educational requirements.
- Iowa’s bill puts them in elite company. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have all fully enacted universal recognition. Our neighbor to the southeast, Missouri, also recently passed universal recognition in the last month, which has not yet gone into full effect. Many states—including Nebraska—had bills introduced in their 2019-20 Legislatures, which ran into hurdles of opposition or time as they tried to enact universal recognition.
- Universal recognition is a great way to grow our state. It makes it easy for highly skilled and trained workers—with experience—to move to our state to practice their trade. Even more important, for many of us with children, is that it facilitates the return to our state. Nebraskans who have left for a time for education, training, or military service, who might come back home if they don’t have to jump through unreasonable hoops to have their experience and training recognized for licensure, would have their path home paved by universal recognition.
- Criminal Justice. Many states—including Nebraska—have been looking for ways to decrease recidivism (repeat offenses) and to help those who have been released from prison find ways to return to productive society.
- Iowa’s bill ensures that those who have criminal records aren’t automatically excluded from finding suitable work. Many state licensing boards have provisions that automatically exclude anyone with a criminal record (for anything) from licensure. Iowa’s bill not only allows for those with criminal records to pre-inquire as to whether their history would prevent them from being licensed (Nebraska has a similar provision) so that they don’t waste time or money training for something they’re ineligible for, but it also stipulates that there has to be a real connection between the past offense and the nature of the license in order to deny licensure.
- Fee Waivers. The Iowa bill recognizes that entry into a new occupation comes with expenses—often at a time when money is tight. If a first-time applicant for a license has a household income of less than two hundred percent of federal poverty income guidelines, the licensing boards are to waive the licensing fees in the state.
All in all, the Iowa bill is comprehensive in scope. Nebraska made great strides in the right direction two years ago and set a standard for occupational licensing reform. Now it’s time for us to renew our commitment to that process, look at what our neighbors are doing, and take further action to ensure that we remain competitive in the labor market well into the future.