Lifting Americans From Poverty Through Licensing Reform

Lifting Americans From Poverty Through Licensing Reform

This op-ed, posted recently in The Hill, suggests that licensing is not just about reducing “red tape”–it’s also about giving people real opportunities to lift themselves from poverty.

Licensing laws are barriers that can put your dreams on hold for years. They also make us less safe. Individuals who have made mistakes in the past, served time in prison, and paid their debt to society have difficulty finding work because of licensing laws. On the other hand, states that remove these barriers allow more of the formerly incarcerated to find employment and become productive members of the community, reducing recidivism and making our country a safer place to live.

But it also calls out the silliness of some of our licensing laws, by pointing out the vast disparities from state to state:

The obvious question is whether Wisconsinite hair is uniquely hard to shampoo or Iowan teeth uniquely difficult to clean – there’s no
evidence to back up either proposition. It also seems that their neighbors are doing fine without these laws.

By imposing arbitrary rules, Iowa and Wisconsin have given their own residents incentive to take their talents elsewhere.

Many argue that occupational licenses are necessary to protect public health and safety, but as the author suggests:

Supporters argue that the restrictions ensure quality and safety standards. If that were the case, they might be worth it. But even the otherwise regulation-friendly Obama administration admitted in its study that “most research does not find that licensing improves quality or public health and safety.”

The Platte Institute continues to forge ahead and to work with legislators in Nebraska, AND with public policy groups in other states, to break down barriers to opportunity. This week, we’ll be testifying on Senator La Grone’s LB1187, which provides for “universal recognition” of personal qualification (i.e. education, experience) of those who are already licensed in good standing in another state. In other words, if your kids move away for a while and get licensed in another state, it will be much easier for them to return to Nebraska in a few years if they want to!

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